The Time is Right – Introducing “Copper”

Detail shot of a 4 hard drive disk sled removed from a Dell PowerEdge C-Series ARM server.

Today we announced the steps Dell is taking to enable the ARM server ecosystem, Dell Copper ARM processor serversincluding that we’ve begun shipping Dell “Copper†ARM servers as part of a Dell seed program. Dell is a recognized industry leader in innovation for the server market: we began testing ARM server technology internally in 2010, and built servers so we could accurately understand the potential advantages.

The ARM server ecosystem is still immature, with a limited software ecosystem and (until now) no ARM-based servers from a tier one OEM. Plus, ARM is currently 32-bit technology, which means current 64-bit code would have to be modified to run on 32-bit, and likely be modified again when 64-bit comes out in the next year or two. So customers have told us they don’t plan to put ARM servers into a production environment, but instead want servers to test and validate in their labs.

To support our customers and enable the ARM ecosystem, we’re taking the following action:

  • Shipping the new Dell “Copper†ARM server through a seed unit program to a select list of customers worldwide. There is no general availability at this time.

  • Delivering Copper seed units to key ecosystem partners to support their development activities.

  • Enabling other customers and developers by providing remote-accessible Copper ARM server clusters deployed in Dell Solution Centers, and through our deep partnership with the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC). These clusters will be in place by the end of the year.

We believe ARM-processor-based infrastructures demonstrate promise for Web front-end and Hadoop environments, where advantages in performance per dollar and performance per watt are critical. And we designed the server specifically for where the market is today, for developers and customers to create code and test performance.

  • Dell Copper servers are a shared infrastructure design, which allows easy deployment and reconfiguration of the sleds.

  • Each ARM server node draws about 15 watts max power, so the total power draw for a full chassis is less than 750 watts.

  • The server nodes discover themselves and interconnect when deployed, so workloads can easily run across the entire 48 nodes.

  • And it’s still powerful, with four ARM server nodes per sled, and 12 total sleds, bringing a total of 48 server nodes to a single 3U C5000 chassis.

In Data Center Solutions (DCS), we understand that supporting customers and the open source development community will help us all to understand where useful technology can be placed. And the benefits of developer testing and experimentation will extend to the entire server market.

Here’s a video where I explain Dell "Copper" ARM servers a bit more:

Watch the product overview video from Christina Tiner, a planner from Dell’s Data Center Solutions team:

Learn more about the project here: I welcome your thoughts and questions below.

About the Author: Steve Cumings