ARM server army revs up at Open Compute Project powwow

ARM-based servers haven't taken over the data center yet, but the runway is getting crowded. Can ARM-based servers really get 25 percent of the data center market by 2019 as AMD hopes?

Speaking at the Open Computer Project's conference in San Jose, Frank Frankovsky, president of the OCP and Facebook's hardware design lead, quipped that ARM processors would change data centers even if they were a bit late to the party based on his optimistic projections.

Frankovsky may have been off by about six months to a year, but the ARM-based server army is lined up and ready for cloud data centers. Naturally, Facebook will be a key customer.

More:  Open Compute Project: Converged infrastructure promise without lock-in? Microsoft joins Open Compute Project, offers cloud server designs  |  AMD unveils first ARM-based server chip, developer kit  |  The Facebook guide to global infrastructure optimization (and domination)  |  Google could give ARM big data center boost


At the OCP powwow, the following micro server processors---some ARM along with Intel's Atom---developments played out:

  1. Applied Micro Circuits CEO Paramesh Gopi said that sampling for the company's 28nm/8-core X-Gene2 processor will be sampled in the spring. Gopi also said that it would launch the X-Gene3. Why does that matter? Applied Micro is providing X-Gene processors for one of HP's Moonshot systems. HP is key to distributing ARM-based servers in the enterprise because it has a massive channel.
  2. AMD outlined its ARM plans and said it would launch Seattle, a ARM Cortex A57 core that can scale to 16 cores. AMD said it expects ARM to be 25 percent of the server market by 2019. ARM servers will be used for custom and specialized workloads. AMD also owns SeaMicro, an early micro server player.
  3. Intel presented its Atom options. Jason Waxman, general manager of cloud platforms at the chip giant, outlined Panther, an Atom core for micro servers, and touched on Leopard, a future Atom core. In the end, Intel will grab a nice chunk of the micro server and cloud data center market. In a recent presentation, Intel said its Atom based server profit margins would be comparable to its more powerful Xeon processors.


Sterne Agee analyst Vijay Rakesh noted that the main takeaway from the Open Computer summit is that the hardware ecosystem is being build out "with most production OEM engagements or deployments mostly in the future." He also noted that the processors all comply with a common vendor neutral slot motherboard architecture.

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