ARM Gets Ready to Swim with the Blue Whale via HP MoonShoot


The fact the late Steve Jobs went with the neophyte ARM technology over the biggie Intel to propel their ultralight designs as seen in iPad—Jobs’ crowning glory. This perhaps became the springboard for Hewlett-Packard to tap their services for the much anticipated launch of HP Moonshoot—a project that would hopefully bring back the lost spark in the organization and restore investors’ trust.

ARM’s Director for Data Center Solutions, Ian Ferguson, visited The Cube and sat down with’s John Furier and’s Dave Vellante for an interview during the HP Moonshoot announcement.

Why ARM is sexy?

Ferguson first explained what differentiates ARM architecture and why it became Jobs’ choice: “We’ve spent 21 years designing technology that is incredibly miserly when it comes to leaking power. We look at what you can do on your phone inside a particular number of watts or even in joules. And, I think what’s changed is that energy can strain systems, it’s no longer just the battery.”

HP Moonshoot Rekindles ARM-x86 battle

The apocalyptic ARM versus x86 war is known to many and is now being revived as HP made the former as their official partner for an ambitious multiple year undertaking. HP will soon be offering servers from Calxeda, the proponent and designer of ARM architecture server chips. In order to take a step forward, ARM has to deliver something innovative to the market. This is where Ferguson related how their onset explores several possibilities and offer diversity among users:

“What we’ve done is we’ve been working to get good JAVA, a lot of these new workloads take good advantage of JAVA or pearl scripts and things like that, less ties to x86. We need good commercial grade server Linux and we’ve been working with people like Ubuntu. You see in the pathfinder program that Red Hats is also listed in HP’s partners. We’re sort of trying to get those underpinnings of the basic operating system and tools. But, what is exciting about this announcement today is we need real hardware out in the cloud that people can go and have a hat and see how do the current workloads run on ARM and how do you take that technology, optimize it for a new architecture.”

ARM’s Business Mantra

It is perhaps equally interesting to learn more about the business ideals that power ARM architecture. Ferguson shared, “ARM’s business model is different from your traditional supplier into the server market. We do not make chips. We license intellectual property which could be a process core or graphics core or the intelligence that founders use to make that chip really fast or really low power or somewhere in the middle. So, we really need ecosystem to get our technology from where we are today into a market space into any market.”

David VS Goliath: Face-off with Intel

Intel’s net worth is almost 80 times that of ARM. But the market only values the “blue whale” only 10 times. How do these figures impact the mindset of people behind ARM? Ferguson replied, “We’re 800 million (worth). The CPU for us into these systems is an important piece of the system. But, it’s not the whole thing. If you look at how servers will be reworked, what we’re trying to do is empower innovation outside the CPU. And we’re going to see heterogeneous environment, people like Nvidia coming and saying we’re doing interesting stuff with the GP GPU’s, we can blend it with one of the architecture license 64bit last week. Calxeda is doing the same—we’re going to take the core mechanics of ARM core and put some interesting mechanics management and things like that around core, diversity is key.”

He added, “And, we’re going to see a broad range of silicon chips coming out. And so, it’s not the just the little ARM fish or plankton or whatever we are in that whale analogy. It’s us. It’s Samsung, it’s Nvidia or all of these broad ecosystem. There’s a lot of people. It’s not the ‘my process of pipeline is better than yours’… You’re going to see a diversity of devices. Is Intel the right server application in the future? Absolutely. Are they right for everything? Absolutely, not. And you’ll see that diversity in choices which I think people will benefit from.”

ZDNet also reported that Moonshoot is also HP’s answer to Facebook-driven IT project. This project will serve as a “customer discovery lab” where they can experiment and enjoy diversity. And, this is arguably a big shot that HP took and could be a make-or-break. We’ll see.