Qualcomm Targets Intel Datacenter Dominance with 10nm ARM-based Server Chip

By Doug Black

December 8, 2016

Claiming no less than a reshaping of the future of Intel-dominated datacenter computing, Qualcomm Technologies, the market leader in smartphone chips, announced the forthcoming availability of what it says is the world’s first 10nm processor for servers, based on ARM Holding’s chip designs.

The Qualcomm Centriq 2400 series has up to 48-cores, is built on the 10nm FinFET multi-gate process technology and utilizes Qualcomm’s ARMv8-compliant Falkor CPU, which the company said is optimized for performance and power efficiency for common datacenter workloads.

“Today’s announcement underscores a monumental achievement in delivering leading-edge, high performance ARM-based server processors to the datacenter,” the company said in a prepared announcement. “Qualcomm Datacenter Technologies aims to reshape the future of datacenter computing by delivering innovative server SoCs that leverage the ARM ecosystem, providing customers with a choice in high-end server processors.”

Qualcomm’s Anand Chandrasekher

Many technology companies have called themselves Intel killers in the server market, none has accomplished the feat so far. Industry watcher International Data Corp. has reported that nearly 100 percent of servers sold so far this year use x86 processors. One barrier to new processor architectures making incursions into the server market is that they require changes to application software. However, large web companies and hyperscalers, which buy high volumes of servers each year, have the expertise to change their software and the purchasing power to impact manufacturers’ designs if new servers can deliver substantial performance or operational cost improvements.

Qualcomm said the new chip will be “competitive” with Intel’s Xeon server chip performance while delivering lower energy consumption. The Centriq 2400 uses a production process that creates transistors measured at 10 nanometers, according Qualcomm. Smaller transistors means more functionality can be engineered into the chip, which will have up to 48 processor cores, compared with up to 24 for Intel server chips.

As part of the announcement, Qualcomm demonstrated Apache Spark and Hadoop on Linux and Java running on a Centriq 2400, which the company said is now sampling to prospective customers and is expected to be commercially available in the second half of 2017. Qualcomm said a 10-nanometer chip for mobile phones will be available the first half of next year.

“The Qualcomm Centriq 2400 series processors will drive high performance, power efficient ARM-based servers from concept to reality,” said Anand Chandrasekher, senior vice president and general manager, Qualcomm Datacenter Technologies, Inc. “Qualcomm requires the leading edge of integrated circuit technology to deliver high performance at low power for the newest premium smartphones. We are first in 10nm IC technology for mobile, and leveraging our expertise in ARM processors and system on chip design, we are the first with our Qualcomm Centriq family of server processors to bring the leading edge to the datacenter.”

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