With an expected 5x increase in performance, quad-core architecture, hardware virtualization technology, and minimal power requirements, the Cortex-A15 processor announced by ARM has the potential to be a proverbial game changer in datacenter server technologies.
While the specifications for the A15 are quite impressive, especially for the mobile chip market, the support for hardware virtualization and the ability to address up to a TB of memory means that the new chip can deliver an exponential increase ion computing power and flexibility to the datacenter when compared to previous efforts at building servers comprised of large numbers of low-powered CPUs. Expected features for server CPUs such as ECC memory support and the ability to recover from soft faults are part of the new processor.
At the product announcement, VirtualLogix gave a demonstration on one of Texas Instruments Mobile Development Platforms, of the A15 CPU running three different operating systems, (Ubuntu Linux, ChromeOS, and Android 2.2) running simultaneously. While this is an entertaining demo for a mobile phone it highlights the reality of virtualization on the processor for the datacenter and server market.
ARM is also claiming a 10x increase in aggregated performance for infrastructure applications, with the 5x number applying to battery constrained mobile applications for the CPU. If this performance increase pans out, Intel will be very hard pressed to get comparably performing versions of their Atom processors to market if they expect to have any chance of owning any significant percentage of the low-power computing space. And with the projected popularity of tablet computers and other mobile devices, this is a key space for Intel to gain traction.
This competition should be of benefit to the green datacenter market as low-powered CPUs in the right configurations start to appear to take on many of the tasks in the traditional datacenter.