Next Big Thing

ARM-based Ubuntu Servers: Ready for Partners?

Amid the HP Moonshot hype, niche ARM and microserver alternatives running Ubuntu and OpenStack Havana are emerging. But are channel partners ready?

While the traditional server market suffers a sales slump, the niche market for ARM-based servers is hoping to catch fire. The latest example: Boston Ltd. has unveiled the Viridis 2.0 Microserver -- a potential alternative to HP Moonshot and Dell Project Copper ARM servers. It's certified to run Ubuntu 13.10 and OpenStack Havana, and powered by ARM Cortexc A15 quad-core processor. So what's the channel partner angle?

Many VARs and MSPs have witnessed falling server sales in the past year or so -- as customers either (A) virtualized existing servers or (B) shifted workloads to public clouds. Further complicating matters, Microsoft killed Windows Small Business Server in 2012 in order to shift more customers to the Office 365 cloud. More recently, IBM apparently has been trying to sell off its x86 server business amid profit margin and sales pressures.

Amid all those market challenges, vendors and IT service providers are hoping ARM-based servers and so-called microservers spark a new customer buying cycle. HP in 2014 expects to ship ARM-based Moonshot servers. (The first Moonshot server announcements involved Intel's ATOM processors.) Dell is also developing so-called Copper ARM servers. And niche players like Penguin Computing are promoting ARM servers running Linux.

Reality Check

The VAR Guy isn't sure if or how the ARM-based solutions will potentially push into small businesses. At the higher end of the market, pundits say ARM-based servers allow businesses to more effectively run large web, cloud and big data applications.

In Boston Ltd.'s case, the new ARM-based server runs Ubuntu and OpenStack Havana. The former is a popular Linux distribution that has made the jump from desktops to cloud servers. The latter, OpenStack, is a cloud platform for public and private deployments.

Boston Ltd. doesn't do much to promote a channel partner program. But the company has dabbled with service providers on multiple fronts. The company's Boston Cloud Services are designed for resellers, ISVs and enterprises.

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