Sure, as that's true of any industry. The "problem" is we don't know which it will be, and they'll have to battle it out. I don't really see Qualcomm as a server company, though. I don't think they have their hearts in it. Nvidia, Applied Micro and either Calxeda or AMD will be the third.
But again, it's very premature to call it out now. We still have at least 5 major players (Samsung, Qualcomm, Nvidia, Mediatek and Apple) in the mobile chip market, and it's a much more mature market than the ARM server market, so we're a long way until we know for sure.
What exactly is an ARM server chip? ARMv8 with 10G networking? Seems like a good combo for embedded networking applications also. Seems to me the best approach is still to provide a selection of generic, expandable interfaces, and most roadmaps I've seen (and I've seen quite a few) the chips will offer PCIe, USB3, SATA and 1G in addition to 10G or more.
I think you may be right as far as the number of vendors who end up inside the bulk of server shipments, but again, what exactly is an ARM server chip anyway?
The ARM site lists 49 Mobile SOC IP vendors, that would be too many by how much in your opinion?
That's the ARM way, lots of vendors, competing often by carving out a unique niche in the ecosystem.
I guess maybe twice to three times, 16-32 ARM server vendors is possible. Think of the different things servers may do. The silicon needed for a render farm is different to a mass video encoding (YouTube) . Different again to a highly transactional database (banking), again to Data Wharehouse analytics. All with different compute, data latency, data throughput requirements.
Efficiency through specialisation.
ARM's A9 & A15 cores will do just fine for :
HTC = High Throughput Computing
and not really for :
HPC = High Performance Computing
A15 need to put a cap on its peak power consumption in the range of less than 2 watts/core should be the target in the longer run.
Many-many, too-many cores will help to build next-gen data centre ARM server processor.
Data centre server processor should handle maximum small threads in the range of 16/32/64/128 simultaneously.
Data centre software threads are not compute (math) intensive and hence having many-many cores to handle many-many threads on a single chip will lead to increased energy efficiency and lower operating cost.
I am guessing he is about 3 too high on the count of survivors. What exactly can an ARM server core do than an undervolted x64 can't? And all that software that needs to be rewritten, retested, and recertified. It's not exactly that Intel will allow itself to be seriously underpriced, and this removes the only possible way these things can make inroads. Plus finfets should let them drop supply voltage even further. I smell an Itanium.
In 10 years there will likely be three survivors, but who knows who they will be right now? As we reach the end of the road on semiconductor scaling, whole new areas of innovation must be found. 10 years from now, I think the market will look very different than it does now. Ten years ago, who would have guessed Apple approaching $200B in annual sales?
If AppliedMicro and Calxeda gain traction early they will be acquisition targets. Neither has the scale to compete in true server markets and they won't be able to grow fast enough on their own to fill the space. The market won't tolerate Intel as the only source of server/data center chips. There will clearly be an alternative ARM ecosystem that competes with Intel.