ARM licenses its architecture rather than selling processors as Intel does. As a result, there is a fair amount of variation among the different ARM processors from vendors. "There is a lot of gratuitous variation that we don't need to have," Masters said. This can be problematic for data centers that need uniform systems so they can be managed en masse.
Linaro is an industry group working to build core open-source software for the ARM platform and part of its mission has been to standardize ARM. Red Hat engineers play a major role in the Linaro Enterprise Group, or LEG, which has been working to standardize the software so users can get one version of Linux to run across ARM processors from multiple vendors. "Those are fundamental expectations in the enterprise space," Masters said.
"We do need to focus on how to make them fundamentally compatible so you can add value further up the stack," he said.
Another issue is the support of peripherals, which hasn't been standardized across 32-bit ARM processors. Masters said that LEG is looking into using the ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface) standard or UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) for 64-bit ARM processors. Over time, ARM will offer an automated bus-like capability that will work like PCI buses offer on x86 machines.
Masters said that Red Hat has not made any announcements about when it would release a version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux for ARM, but he did note that the Fedora Project, the community Linux distribution that tests many of the applications that go into RHEL, now offers a distribution for ARM.