ARM Unveils Spec for Servers Running Its 64-Bit SoCs

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2014-01-29 Print this article Print

ARM and its partners see an opportunity to gain traction in low-power servers with the growth of hyperscale data center environments run by cloud providers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, and Web-based companies like Google and Facebook. In these facilities—which house huge numbers of servers the process massive amounts of data—power- and cost-efficiency are often more important than raw performance. ARM officials for the past few years have argued that the company's history creating low-power SoCs for mobile and embedded systems fit that demand.

While some chip partners like Marvell Technology and Texas Instruments have offered some 32-bit ARM chips for servers, the industry won't get a real gauge on demand until systems running 64-bit SoCs start hitting the market. Already Applied Micro has developed its 64-bit X-Gene ARM-based chip, and now AMD is getting ready to sample its first one.

However, ARM ambitions took a hit last month when Calxeda, an early pioneer in developing ARM-based server chips, closed its door suddenly after running out of money, despite having raised millions of dollars and producing several 32-bit products.

Still, ARM proponents are confident. Speaking to reporters Jan. 28, Andrew Feldman, corporate vice president and general manager of AMD's Server Business Unit, said new computing demands are creating a need for an alternative to x86 chips from Intel and AMD, and that he expects by 2019, ARM-based SoCs will account for 25 percent of the server chip market.

"These new workloads mean that the same-old way of doing things just doesn't work," Feldman said.

HP and Dell both have projects underway for offering low-power microservers powered by ARM-based SoCs.

However, Intel is also being aggressive in the low-power server space. The company in September 2013 launched its low-power 22nm Atom C2000 "Avoton" SoCs based on the new "Silvermont" microarchitecture that company officials say meets or exceeds ARM's SoCs in performance and power efficiency. In addition, Intel later this year will release the next generation 14nm "Denverton" SoC.

In addition, while HP is promising ARM-based Moonshot server modules, the first ones that have rolled out are powered by Atom SoCs.


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