Windows Server on ARM: It's happening

Microsoft has committed publicly to use ARM chips in machines that will be running cloud services in its own datacenters before year-end.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

There have been rumors for the past several years that Windows Server would be coming to ARM.


Microsoft's 'Project Olympus' design

Today, March 8, that rumor became an acknowledged reality,

Microsoft officials said that the company is committed to use ARM chips in machines running its cloud services, as its officials told Bloomberg.

Microsoft will use the ARM chips in a cloud server design that its officials will detail at the the US Open Compute Project Summit today, March 8. Microsoft has been working with both Qualcomm and Cavium on the version of Windows Server for ARM, according to company officials.

See also: Qualcomm, Microsoft team up on Windows Server on ARM servers, submit spec to Open Compute Project

There's no word from Microsoft (so far) if and when it will begin offering Windows Server on ARM to external customers or partners.

Microsoft joined the Open Compute Project (OCP) in 2014, and is a founding member of and contributor to the organization's Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI) project.The OCP publishes open hardware designs intended to be used to build datacenters relatively cheaply. The OCP has already released specifications for motherboards, chipsets, cabling, and common sockets, connectors, and open networking and switches.

When Microsoft joined OCP, company officials said Microsoft would be contributing to the project its Microsoft cloud server specification -- a 12U shared server chassis capable of housing 24 1U servers -- as well as releasing its Chassis Manager under the open-source Apache license. Microsoft has made other OCP contributions for datacenter switches and cloud-networking components.

Project Olympus is the codename for Microsoft's next-generation cloud hardware design that it contributed last Fall to the OCP.

It seems Microsoft's plan is to use ARM processors in its Olympus systems, which Bloomberg says Microsoft may incorporate in its own datacenters before the end of this year.

Update: Here's Qualcomm's press release about its work with Microsoft on ARM.

Qualcomm says the goal is to enable "a variety of cloud workloads to run on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform powered by Qualcomm Centriq 2400 server solutions." Qualcomm Datacenter Technologies "has been working with Microsoft for several years on ARM-based server enablement and has onsite engineering at Microsoft to collaboratively optimize a version of Windows Server, for Microsoft's internal use in its data centers, on Qualcomm Centriq 2400-based systems," the release adds.

Update No. 2: Here's more from ZDNet's Larry Dignan on the Microsoft-Qualcomm partnership behind today's announcement.

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