At the Open Compute Summit, AMD announced its first ARM v8 server processor codenamed Seattle based on the ARM Cortex-A57 CPU core. The announcement was not unexpected because AMD indicated its intention to launch the new product this quarter. However, after Calxeda, another processor company working on an ARM v8 server chip, imploded last month, there have been some doubts about the viability of ARM-based servers. The AMD announcement is an important proof point, but just the first in what is likely to be a flood of announcements in 2014 from the ARM ecosystem targeting server applications.
AMD announced a new ARM-based 8-core Opteron A-series processor family. AMD’s SeaMicro division will also be offering server platforms based on the new processors. These solutions are targeted at large-scale datacenter applications like AMD’s recent win at Verizon. Although the announcement of the Verizon design win did not mention anything about the AMD’s ARM-based platform, being part of AMD’s product roadmap likely influenced the decision. Having products based on both the x86 and ARM architecture will allow AMD to offer the best of both worlds.
The server market is a very broad market when you consider all the possible applications, from back office enterprise servers to large communications and datacenter applications. As a result, there have always been multiple CPU architectures because of the varying requirements of the applications and workloads. This is unlikely to change in the near future; however, the ARM architecture not only brings a lower power architecture that is critical for dense server configurations, it also brings the flexibility of customized solutions, which is something that AMD is making a key part of the company's strategy going forward. Judging from the returns being reaped from the latest generation of game consoles using custom AMD chips, this appears to be a wise strategy.
For a company that many had proclaimed dead just 18 months ago, AMD has made a significant turnaround. Being one of the first ARM-based silicon and server providers marks another significant step in this turnaround and positions the company to be a leader in what is surely to be an exciting segment of the market, especially as the industry works to create a connected work. The AMD announcement also kicks off an exciting year for the ARM ecosystem as it works to bring cohesive hardware and software solutions to market.
— Jim McGregor is founder & principal analyst TIRIAS Research