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HP, Applied Micro Release First 64-Bit ARM Server

Applied Micro and Hewlett-Packard have teamed up to release the first commercially available 64-bit ARMv8 server, the ProLiant m400 cartridge for HP's Moonshot server framework.

The new server is based on Applied Micro's X-Gene System-on-a-Chip (SoC) and runs Canonical's Ubuntu operating system. Designed for primarily for Web caching workloads, the ProLiant m400 provides power, cooling, and space savings compared with traditional rack servers to the tune of an "up to 35 percent reduction in total cost of ownership," according to HP.

"ARM technology will change the dynamics of how enterprises build IT solutions to quickly address customer challenges. HP's history, culture of innovation, and proven leadership in server technology position us as the most qualified player to empower customers with greater choice in the server marketplace," Antonio Neri, senior vice president and general manager of HP's Servers and Networking business, said in a statement on Monday.

HP also announced the availability of the ProLiant m800, a 32-bit ARM-based server cartridge that is also intended for the Moonshot 1500 chassis, pictured above. The m800 is "optimized for real-time data processing of high volume, complex data such as pattern analysis." Both the ProLiant m800 and m400 extend the reach of HP's "Project Moonshot" initiative to introduce a radical new infrastructure framework for scale-out data center installations supporting Web hosting, cloud computing, search, general-purpose databases, logging, and other fast-growing "big data" activities.

HP ProLiant m400 Server/Credit: HP

But it's the ProLiant m400, pictured at right, which is the real milestone release. ARM's 64-bit instruction set has been used in consumer devices like Apple's iPhone for more than a year, but it's taken a bit longer for the first server products to hit the market. Along with Applied Micro, Advanced Micro Devices and the now-shuttered Calxeda were the main drivers of 64-bit ARM-based computing for the data center in recent years.

Now Applied Micro can claim first-to-market status with its X-Gene SoC, though AMD is sampling its own 64-bit ARM-based "Seattle" server chips to partners and shouldn't be too far behind.

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst for Moor Insights & Strategy, said there were several good reasons to use 64-bit ARM chips in servers, which are currently dominated by the x86 processors made by Intel and AMD.

"Two key advantages of this product, compared to other ProLiant cartridges for the Moonshot System available today, are a doubling of the addressable memory to 64GB per cartridge and significantly higher memory bandwidth made possible by X-Gene's four memory channels," Moorhead said in a white paper.

The analyst also touted the ProLiant m400's improved throughput for I/O intensive workloads via a pair of 10 Gbps Ethernet channels and low latency storage access.

HP launched its first "Project Moonshot" product in early 2013, a server enclosure dubbed HP Moonshot 1500 loaded with 45 Intel Atom-based server cartridges, an open-flow compliant network switch, and supporting components.

But even as the Moonshot initiative kicked off with x86-based, CPU-driven systems, HP has also been clear that it plans to mix and match many types of computer chips and integrated circuits in future Moonshot servers, including ARM-based parts, graphics processors, APUs from AMD, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), and digital signal processors (DSPs).

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