Linus Torvalds has never been one to mince words. Sometimes he can be a little too brash in his opinion, a trait he acknowledged before taking a brief hiatus for some soul searching. He is also extremely knowledgeable. A bit of both (brashness and knowledge) came out in a series of forum posts discussing ARM hardware and servers.
Straight to the point, Linus believes that without a development platform, "ARM in the server space is never going to make it." Furthermore, he calls the attempt to pitch ARM as a 64-bit hyperscaling model is "idiotic," in part because of the lack of customers in that space. On top of it all, Intel is a juggernaut in the server sector, so pricing doesn't play that big of a role, according to Linus.
"The price advantage of ARM will never be there for ARM servers unless you get enough volume to make up for the absolutely huge advantage in server volume that Intel has right now. Being a smaller die with cheaper NRE doesn't matter one whit, when you can't make up for the development costs in volume. Look at every ARM server offering so far: they were not only slower, they were more expensive!," Linus says.
What about the cloud, though? Linus sees a flaw in thinking that the cloud somehow negates the importance of the instruction set, i.e. develop at home and deploy in the cloud.
"That's bulls***. If you develop on x86, then you're going to want to deploy on x86, because you'll be able to run what you test 'at home' (and by 'at home' I don't mean literally in your home, but in your work environment). Which means that you'll happily a pay a bit more for x86 cloud hosting, simply because it matches what you can test on your own local setup and the errors you get will translate better," Linus says.
It is an interesting perspective, and as far as Linus is concerned, ARM is left with no real advantage over x86. However, he sees a way out for ARM, which lies in development boxes. That is the only way he sees ARM making it in the server space.
In a separate post, he talked about Windows on ARM and how Apple switching to native ARM processors could be beneficial. This is something we may see play out in the future, with Apple rumored to be ditching Intel's x86 chips and moving to custom ARM-based processors for its Macs.
What do you think, do you agree with Linus' thoughts on the matter? Sound off in the comments section below!
Thumbnail/Top Image Source: Flickr via Randal Schwartz