Qualcomm hits the market ARM chips for servers

The chip supplier Qualcomm also wants its share of the market for server processors. He announced a chip 24 cores based on ARM architecture as an alternative to x86 chips used for the cloud in data centers.

Qualcomm hits the market ARM chips for servers-1

Qualcomm is the last to develop a server chip based on the ARM architecture. ARM chips equip the majority of smartphones and tablets and, because they use less energy, some think they can replace the x86 chips that equip a large number of servers found in data centers. Qualcomm targets HyperScale uses customers as Facebook and Google, but also service providers and large enterprises. The manufacturer says its chip will be adapted to the workload performed in the cloud, big data as data mining, machine learning, and offers infrastructure services (IaaS) and platform as a service ( PaaS).

Chandrasekher Qualcomm shows a test version of the ARM chip company server.

The chip made by Qualcomm last Thursday in San Francisco is specifically based on a smart system developed by the founder, different from its Snapdragon processor. The chip, still in preproduction, includes a PCIe controller, storage space, and provide other functions. “The pre-release has 24 cores, but the final model will be more,” said Chandrasekher, senior vice president of Qualcomm. Adding that the bullet had already been sent to wholesale customers for testing, without specifying which. He has not given release date for the product, but “Qualcomm will provide more information on the availability of the processor during the next year.”

A platform for LAMP

Two years ago the founder working on the ARM architecture processor-based server. Thursday, Qualcomm showed his chip was running a version of Linux with KVM hypervisor and managed streaming HD video to a PC. The chip was running the LAMP stack – Linux, Apache Web server, MySQL and PHP – and OpenStack cloud software. The CEO of Mellanox and Xilinx, working with Qualcomm to develop a comprehensive server platform, attended the presentation of Chandrasekher. Mellanox develops networking cards that will work with the SOC chip and Xilinx programmable chips will grow to speed specific workloads. “We want to diversify the market, now dominated by a single actor, and improve performance,” said Moshe Gavrielov, CEO of Xilinx, speaking of Intel without naming him.

The list of companies that have expressed an interest in this market is already long, and Qualcomm is only the latest arrival. AMD, Cavium, AppliedMicro, TI, Marvell and Broadcom are already marketing for ARM processor-based servers. But Qualcomm retains an advantage: its presence in the smartphone chip market is very important and now seem to want to invest heavily in the sector. “We know this is a long-term investment and that the conquest of this market will take several years,” said president of Qualcomm, Derek Aberle. The market for ARM chips based servers in its infancy and Qualcomm is unlikely to be exceeded. “Some big companies like PayPal and Baidu have begun to ARM servers in their data centers, but the market is still in a test phase,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “The biggest challenge lies in the maturity of the software stack,” he added.

The players in the cloud as 1st customers

Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight64, HyperScale are two categories of customers. Giants like Facebook and Google who design their own servers and develop their own software: “For these companies, the transition to a new architecture is more easily accessible if they think they can derive real benefits,” Does -he states. But service providers like Amazon and Microsoft, the move to ARM servers will be more difficult: AWS and Azure platforms handle workloads for customers who have developed their own software for x86 servers. In addition, Intel has not stood idly: the chipmaker has developed a low-power Xeon chip server processors and other products based on the Atom core originally designed for mobile devices. “The roadmap of Intel is telling,” said Patrick Moorhead. While the own license system to the ARM architecture makes it easier for a challenger to take its place in this market, “said Nathan Brookwood, for its part. “The ARM model is really the only alternative for companies that want to develop a unique product. In this common ecosystem, all players are competing, and that context changes the game, “he added.

In general, larger service providers do not like to talk about what they do in their data centers, but some companies have already opted for ARM servers. This year AppliedMicro said that PayPal had deployed servers integrating its ARM chips and Marvell said that the Chinese search engine Baidu used its ARM products. The French host Online, a subsidiary of Iliad, also built a bare-metal cloud operating with thousands of ARM servers. Essentially, this technology choice allows these companies to reduce their electricity bill and make better use of energy in their data centers. “The amount of energy they may have to feed their data centers is a limiting factor,” said the CEO of Xilinx. “This is why a low power solution can be very attractive.”

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