SANTA CLARA – It’s still early days in the growth of cloud service providers who are driving trends in servers and Ethernet networks. Their rise is opening small, but significant opportunities for non-x86-based servers, according to analysts at The Linley Group.
Applied Micro, AMD and Cavium launched ARM server SoCs last year that together will take less than 5% of the server market this year. By 2020, Intel predicts a third of cloud providers will use FPGAs, analysts noted in a keynote at their annual data center event here.
On the networking front, 40 Gbit controllers and switches are gaining traction this year. But they will be quickly overtaken by 25/50 and 100G chips starting next year.
Intel’s Xeon chips will continue to dominate in big data centers for the foreseeable future but “the current products, from Applied Micro, AMD and Cavium will find niches,” said Jag Bolaria, a principal analyst at Linley Group.
Public cloud services will consume more than a third of server processors in the next two years. (Images: Linley Group)
ARM server chips from Broadcom and Qualcomm built in 16/14nm processes are expected to ship next year, raising the level of competition with the x86. They could eke out “a single digit percentage share of unit shipments in 2018,” he said.
The vendors would have to win significant business from top providers such as Amazon, Facebook, Google or Microsoft to take a double-digit share of the server market, he added. To date, Google participates in IBM’s Open Power alliance and showed a Power8 motherboard while Amazon bought ARM chip startup Annapurna and hired many of the engineers from Calxeda.
Amazon “could use the ARM processors for offload or accelerators complementing the host x86, or it could be another project that never comes to fruition…I suspect at least one of these [big data centers] will develop some sort of ASIC for internal use,” Bolaria said.
100GE will outgrow 40GE next year and be bigger than it in 2018.
The Web giants “will move quickly to 25G/50G/100G Ethernet,” but 40G will continue “to grow through 2019, albeit at a slower rate” thanks to sales at smaller companies,” said Bob Wheeler, networking analyst at the Linley Group.
“Broadcom has taken the early lead in 100GbE switch chips with Tomahawk because it was first to market and because it is building on its dominant position in 10/40Gbit Ethernet switching with the Trident line,” Wheeler said. “Cavium is best positioned to challenge with its first Xpliant switch chips reaching production this quarter,” he added.
The public cloud giants started adopting 40G in 2014, but are switching to the 25/50/100 road map this year. Meanwhile Ethernet physical-layer devices are transitioning from 28G NRZ to 56G PAM4 to support the 100G products which will initially be bigger in storage systems than servers, the group predicted.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times