Applied Micro is already sampling its 64-bit X-Gene SoC to Dell and Red Hat as well other companies. AMD has been public about sampling its Seattle SoC in the first half of the year. Volume production will begin in the second half of the year.
In a statement to EE Times, an ARM spokesperson gave some more details about the spec. The company said that the new specification works at multiple levels and defines the minimum mandatory hardware at each level. All optional hardware used during boot conforms to appropriate industry standards. This allows the OS to support optional boot devices, eliminating the need for custom kernels.
Furthermore, partners can “dynamically enumerate the platform and load appropriate modules/drivers as needed.” Finally, virtualization implementation is required.
“The public release of the Server Base System Architecture specification simplifies the development and deployment process for the entire ecosystem from silicon through to end users," ARM said.
ARM’s partners are gearing up for this specification, beginning with AMD. “Adopting industry standards and defining base platforms are essential for creating a healthy ARM-based 64-bit server ecosystem,” said Leendert van Doorn, corporate fellow and corporate vice president at AMD, in a statement. “AMD is excited to have worked with ARM on the Server Base System Architecture requirements, and the public release of this specification will accelerate the adoption of ARM-based 64-bit servers.”
“A well-defined, standards-based platform is instrumental in providing OS portability and a familiar user experience to our customers seeking to deploy these new classes of server offerings,” said Brian Payne, executive director of server solutions for Dell, in a statement.
Jim McGregor, principal analyst for Tirias Research, acknowledged that he did not have all the details on the new spec, but said “2014 is going to see a wave of ARM in servers.” He added, “The key takeaway, from an application developer’s perspective, is that you still have to develop for an operating system, but you don’t have to worry about developing for a particular ARM chip.”
McGregor believes the announcement “drastically” changes the playing field between x86 and ARM servers. In addition to broad industry support, including from multiple OS vendors like Microsoft, McGregor noted that all the V8 server chips will support the specs.
Nathan Brookwood, principal of market watcher Insight 64, said the new standard should help align the ARM ecosystem around firmware and hardware interfaces where there has been little standardization to date. In contrast, in the established x86 ecosystem, these standards existed on a de facto basis long before x86-based servers came into existence.
“Developers can construct a single OS image that works on all platforms, in much the same way Microsoft can release a version of Windows or Windows Server that runs on a wide variety of Intel and AMD processors without any modifications,” he said.
Brookwood compared this to the situation that exists in the handset world, which he said lacks these foundational standards. “Android must be specifically adapted for each unique SoC out there. The server world needs a more flexible approach, and Server Base System Architecture seems to fill the bill.”
— Zewde Yeraswork, Associate Editor, EE Times