Small Systems and Big Iron: Linux on Non-x86 Computers

Discover the options for running Linux on PowerPC, ARM and Itanium.

Of the platforms discussed in this article, Power and especially Itanium both have a questionable future. Although IBM and Intel are committed to developing future generations of their products, the market for high-end proprietary processors has been somewhat eroded by increasingly fast and cheap x86 processors. Many analysts felt that the Tukwila Itanium was underwhelming in comparison to both Power7 and high-end x86 server processors, such as recent Xeon and Opteron chips. IBM expects Power to be a viable platform for a long time, because it still is substantially faster than the x86 alternatives, but even for them, competition is closer than it once was. As a result, Linux support for these platforms probably is going to decline over time, although as long as there is hardware using these architectures, people will be using and developing Linux on them, as has happened with “dead” architectures, such as the DEC Alpha and the HP PA-RISC. ARM, on the other hand, has a bright future, having been dominant on low-power systems for decades and starting to become popular on consumer computer hardware, with constantly improving Linux support.

Kira Scarlett has been using Linux for eight years. She frequently ends up owning strange and unusual computer hardware, and she has used Linux on almost every major processor of the last 20 years. She also is interested in graphic design and is an avid hockey fan. Kira can be reached at