Image: Raspberry Pi Foundation

The primary drawback to a virtual private server (VPS) is quality of service — other tenants on the same underlying hardware may be running scripts that create too much load on the CPU, and performance is dependent on the extent to which the provider oversells the hardware in question. As a result, the quality of service depends, to a great extent, on chance — finding a service provider that does not aggressively oversell, and a sensibly monitored acceptable use policy to prevent other users from commandeering CPU time.

In a market dominated by VPS systems, the only way to sidestep this is to pay a premium for a dedicated server. The costs are substantially higher, considering the expense of housing the hardware, and the power requirements that accompany Intel Xeon CPUs. Now, servers using ARM processors originally intended for power-efficient use cases like smartphones and tablets are quickly becoming competitive replacements for VPS offerings.

Scaleway C1

Scaleway, a division of the French web host, has developed a microserver with a quad-core Marvell ARMv7 CPU and 2 GB RAM. At the default configuration, it comes with 50 GB of SSD storage, a 200 Mbit/s unmetered connection, and one IPv4 address for €2.99 per month ($3.33 USD), with additional storage available as €1 ($0.89 USD) per 50 GB per month.

As the ARMv7 system on a chip (SoC) was designed around the intention of use in a smartphone, the power consumption and generated heat is minimal, making it possible to deploy these servers with less power and space, and with reduced cooling requirements. With the custom-designed boards, Scaleway is able to put 912 C1 servers into a rack, making it a very space-efficient solution.

Being an ARM-powered system, it can be used with any Linux distribution that supports ARM. Scaleway provides images of Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, Debian, Fedora, Gentoo, Arch, and Alpine Linux. The company also provides images of popular server software such as WordPress, ownCloud, and others. Support for Docker images is also included.

Scaleway C1 ARM server boards, before the heatsink is attached.

Image: Online SAS

Raspberry Pi

As this versatile development kit has an Ethernet port onboard, the Raspberry Pi is the subject of a great deal of curiosity for hosting situations. While the Raspberry Pi is underpowered relative to the Scaleway C1, it is more than capable of running less intensive processes like a personal mail server or a web server.

PCextreme offers colocation of Raspberry Pi systems for €3.00 per month (€36.00, or $40.14 USD, per year). The company has designed custom boards to fit multiple Raspberry Pi systems in racks, and is working on improving designs to be more space efficient. At present, the company has over 2,300 Raspberry Pi systems in the data center. If you do not wish to mail a Raspberry Pi system to the Netherlands, you can ask for one to be purchased and installed for you.

HP Moonshot

In comparison to the other ARM server resources, the HP Moonshot is much more like a traditional server, in terms of power — Moonshot systems like the Proliant m400 are powered by an octa-core, 64-bit ARMv8 CPU (the AppliedMicro X-Gene) and rely on M.2 2280 SSDs for storage, instead of traditional platter drives or packaged SSDs. According to HP, this results in four times the density and double the storage compared to traditional servers, for the same performance, power, and cooling.

For situations in which space — that is, physical real estate — is at a premium, such as urban city centers, ARM-powered systems like Moonshot are a particularly attractive option to reduce the physical footprint of a data center.

What’s your view?

Do you manage a data center in a physically constrained space? Would you consider using a ARM-powered server for your organization? Are you using one presently? Share your strategies in the comments.

Also see

Note: ZDNet and TechRepublic are CBS Interactive properties.


Raspberry Pi and two other ARM servers show potential as VPS replacements