Qualcomm teams with Microsoft to bring Windows Server to ARM-based chips

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Qualcomm

Intel's dominance could be further eroded as Microsoft looks to alternative chipmakers for its cloud hardware.

Qualcomm on Wednesday announced a collaboration with Microsoft to accelerate next-generation cloud services on the 10nm Qualcomm Centriq 2400 ARM-based platform. Microsoft hopes that the move could save it money, as the chips use less power and are built by multiple manufacturers, keeping pricing competitive.

At the moment Intel controls more than 99 percent of the market for server chips. "We have seen ARM servers benefit from the high-end cell phone software stacks, and this established developer ecosystem has significantly helped Microsoft in porting its cloud software to ARM servers", the company said in the blog post. "We wouldn't even bring something to a conference if we didn't think this was a committed project and something that's part of our road map". According to Bloomberg, the first punch may already have landed, as Hewlett Packard Enterprise recently reported poor quarterly revenue thanks to "significant lower demand" from a major customer, believed to be Microsoft.

Just a couple of days ago, Qualcomm and Microsoft sent tech media into a frenzy by announcing Windows Server on ARM.

At the Open Compute Summit in Santa Clara, California, today, Microsoft showed off the latest iterations of Project Olympus, its open source data center server design.

"Qualcomm is accelerating innovation in datacentres by delivering the world's first 10nm server processor", said Anand Chandrasekher, QDT's general manager. One of the biggest hurdles to enable ARM servers is the software. For customers, the product frees them from having to invest in the computing power needed to perform the complex training and analyzing needed for tasks like machine learning, Nvidia Chief Executive Officer Jen-Hsun Huang said.

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I met with all the vendors in this article onsite at OCP Summit to assemble this complete story about how Microsoft plans to build optimized cloud infrastructure for specific workloads using 64-bit ARM server chips. It is now looking to gain some validation about the capabilities of the said server chip before the tech giants start boosting their cloud architecture using the same.

More broadly, the company says that ARM is appealing because it has greater scope for extending the instruction set. Once it does, however, Intel's hold on at least Microsoft's server business will be dealt something of a blow, squeezing the company's processor business from both the high and low ends as Windows 10 makes its way to ARM and AMD continues to compete against its Core line of CPUs.

Qualcomm also submitted a server spec - the Qualcomm Centriq 2400 Open Compute Motherboard - to the OCP.

Microsoft has been running evaluations of ARM servers side by side with its Intel-based production workloads, noted Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Leendert van Doom. Besides, if Microsoft is serious about ARM, then Qualcomm is the natural choice of partners.

Microsoft and QDT are collaborating with an eye to the future addressing server acceleration and memory technologies that have the potential to shape the data center of tomorrow...

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