PALO ALTO, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- HP (HPQ - Get Report), after spending the last few months frightening the life out of investors, has taken a big step in the right direction by becoming the first major server player to support ARM's (ARMH) low-power chips.
New HP CEO Meg Whitman won plaudits last week when she announced that the tech bellwether would keep its computer division, easing investor fears about the company's long-term strategy. With the ARM announcement, however, HP may also regain some of its innovative edge that has dulled in recent years.
A semiconductor star, ARM's technology has typically been found in smartphones and tablets, although HP will use the chips within a soon-to-be-launched server technology called Redstone.
"The low-power attributes of ARM's architecture cloud give HP an advantage when selling into environments where power consumption is a critical factor," explained Brian Marshall, an analyst at International Strategy & Investment Group, in a note. "We think HP is targeting cloud-computing applications in the data center with the Redstone platform."Companies such as Google (GOOG - Get Report) and Apple (AAPL - Get Report), which has built a massive new data center in Maiden, North Carolina, are famed for their reliance on vast server farms, so HP clearly sees a big market opportunity. The initial Redstone offering, launched in the first half of next year, will be built using ARM chip technology adapted by Texas startup Calxeda. The Austin-based firm touts its ARM Cortex-based EverCore processor as a way for companies to slash data center energy consumption by up to 90%. Redstone incorporates 2,800 servers in a single data center rack, which HP says will significantly reduce the amount of cabling and switching needed by companies. Based on the Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm's own lab tests, Redstone, could reduce data center complexity by up to 97% compared to a traditional server. Subsequent versions of Redstone will be built using Atom processors from HP's longstanding chip partner Intel (INTC - Get Report), according to HP. International Strategy & Investment Group's Marshall estimates that if ARM-based CPUs feature in 30% of its Industry Standard Server (ISS) shipments in 2012, HP could raise its ISS operating margin profile by 150 basis points. "This development would add around $220 million in incremental operating income to HP in calendar year 2012 and drive our