Dell made it clear in February that it had been exploring ARM options for its server products for over a year, and now the company has announced a program that it hopes will let it hone in on what its customers would require from such products as well as move the ARM-based server ecosystem itself forward. As part of the initiative, the company will be seeding ARM servers — dubbed "Copper" — to a small number of customers, including companies like Canonical and Cloudera. By providing the hardware, the company aims to encourage its partners to develop a robust software platform for the devices. Additionally, Dell will be deploying Copper clusters in its own centers, allowing remote access to outside parties for additional testing and software development. Dell hopes to use the program to understand customer's expectations for such products, as well as to eventually stimulate the need for the ARM servers themselves by helping the software mature.
It's a similar strategy to what Dell is employing with Project Sputnik, where it is using existing hardware and a basic set of software tools in an effort to build a platform for web-based developers; in both cases the company is trying to help create a market for its products rather than service current, existing needs. While no doubt different then the strategy Dell has employed in the past, it's also an indicator that the company has no qualms about testing out new approaches as it moves to a more extensive focus on enterprise customers.