ARM servers look to have legs as OVH boots up Cavium cloud

Here's your chance to test servers-on-chips at ARM's length

Backers of ARM CPUs as a data centre disruptor capable of knocking Intel off its lucrative Xeon-powered perch have a new poster child in the form of hosting company OVH, which has announced it will stand up a cloud powered by Cavium's ThunderX chippery.

The ThunderX is a serious bit of kit, as each can pack up to 48 cores each running at up to 2.5 GHz. Cavium has put a lot of time and effort into making sure the silicon plays nicely with key pieces of open sourcery, like the Xen hypervisor, and with important bits of infrastructure like host bus adapters. System vendors like Gigabyyte have revealed ThunderX server designs.

That kind of behaviour is more or less compulsory for a CPU vendor because if chips can't work with myriad hardware and software they're curiosities, not usable products. Cavium's efforts to build an ecosystem are therefore important because the first few attempts at ARM for servers – think Calxeda - never quite got that far. Cavium looks to have enough cash to make the efforts needed to set the snowball rolling, and can also point to substantial amounts of open source infrastructure and applications ready to run on its platform. Theres also momentum a-plenty behind the idea of ARM-powered servers, most recently in the form of SUSE committing to an ARM version of its Linux. Competitors also validate the idea: HP has ARM server ambitions and Qualcomm plans a tilt at the ARM server SPU market, too.

OVH isn't saying how many Cavium-powered servers it will make available, but the ThunderX_CP and ThunderX_ST models OVH will run are designed for cloud servers and big data respectively so at a guess there will be products based around those applications. The service launches in August 2015, with prices to be revealed in due course.

Whatever the price, having a big cloud operator offering its wares will give users the chance to test Cavium's kit – and the concept of ARM servers – without having to make substantial investments. If you give it a whirl, let us know your war stories! ®

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