Applied Micro Circuits has become the first company to announce a fully-functional server platform running on a 64-bit ARMv8-based system-on-chip processor.

While ARM is causing a stir in the microserver market with its low-power chip designs, in particular the Cortex-A15 'Eagle' which includes 48-bit memory addressing and hardware virtualisation extensions, the company still has a major roadblock to its major adoption: unlike x86 chips, the ARM processors are 32-bit at heart.

For ARM's traditional target market of embedded and mobile computing systems, that's not a problem: no phones on the market today have more than 4GB of RAM, and they don't spend their time doing heavy integer mathematics. If the company's serious about breaking into rival Intel's stronghold market of the datacentre, however, it's going to have to address that problem with a true 64-bit implementation - not just the extended addressing of the Cortex-A15.

ARM has announced that it's working on 64-bit chips, but actual silicon has been thin on the ground. That is, until now: ARM licensee AppliedMicro has announced a 'server-on-a-chip' solution dubbed X-Gene, which it claims is the first 64-bit ARM implementation designed specifically for the server market.

Originally announced back in October last year, X-Gene chips combine multiple ARMv8 symmetric processing cores featuring L1, L2 and L3 caches with a high-performance memory controller, an integrated Ethernet network interface and other communications interfaces to make the chip suitable for immediate implementation.

The best hardware in the world is no use without software, of course, but AppliedMicro claims to have that sewn up too with the first LAMP - Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP - stack to run on a 64-bit ARM core.

'This is the first time the world is seeing a mature, fully-functional server platform running a real-world application on 64-bit ARM-based processor,' boasted Vinay Ravuri, AppliedMicro's vice president of processor products, at the announcement. 'As a result, AppliedMicro has already secured key strategic customers and partners around the world and has been enabling them with the tools they need to get started in advance of silicon. This web server emulates a live content delivery application featuring rich video, audio and text, and demonstrates the robustness and readiness of our next generation cloud server solution.'

So-called 'cloud servers' - which focus more on running massive quantities of relatively lightweight processes, compared to traditional servers' focus on rapid computation of a smaller number of more complex processes - are considered by many in the industry to be the next big growth area. It's something which has AMD concerned enough to splash out $334 million buying microserver specialist SeaMicro, while Intel is working to convince OEMs to use its low-power Atom chips for such devices.

With ARM's customers now shipping true 64-bit implementations, the British chip design giant is likely to rapidly increase its presence in the market - and that's something which will likely have x86 giants like AMD, Intel and VIA concerned.
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