SAN JOSE, Calif. – In the next five years, ARM-based SoCs will grab about ten percent of the server market, according to a straw poll of engineers at the annual Hot Chips. ARM’s future in the data center was a hot topic of debate in an afternoon session dedicated to a smorgasbord of next-generation server processors.
The session included two papers from IBM, two on Sparc, one from Intel (added to this report on Sept. 30) and one on a leading ARM server SoC.
In a keynote kicking off the session, former Intel chief technology officer Patrick Gelsinger said ARM will maintain dominance in mobile systems but won’t gain a foothold in data centers. The x86 makes up more than 95 percent of all server units and 70 percent of server CPU revenues, he said.
“It’s is the only architecture that matters, and we are betting heavily on this being the computing architecture for the data center,” said Gelsinger (below) who is a division president of storage giant EMC and set to become chief executive of its VMWare subsidiary on September 1.
Gelsinger, who led design of Intel’s Pentium processor, said he doesn’t believe bullish market projections ARM-based SoCs could command a quarter of the server market in five years. “Fundamentally, I don’t think the math makes sense [because much of a server’s power is in memory and I/O components, not CPU cores] and the cost of [CPU] heterogeneity in a data center is very high,” he said.
Fred Weber, who led the design of AMD’s Opteron server chips, generally agreed. “We had better performance, lower power and the same instruction set as Intel and we couldn’t get to 25 percent,” he told EE Times after taking the straw poll as a session moderator.
Taking the opposite stance, Applied Micro gave the first look into its 64-bit ARM server SoC it aims to sample before the end of the year. “This complete server-on-a-chip will change the equation for server total cost of ownership,” said Paramesh Gopi, Applied’s chief executive.
Among other alternative server CPUs at Hot Chips, IBM showed new Power and zSeries chips. The later chip runs at a record 5.5 GHz and both CPUs make heavy use of IBM’s embedded DRAM technology. Separately, Fujitsu and Oracle described new Sparc-based server processors.On the following pages:Inside Applied's ARM SoCSparc CPUs show 64 threads, 382 GFlopsIBM packs eDRAM, hits 5.5 GHzLast but not least--Intel