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Google backing ARM servers

by on04 February 2016

Don't get your hopes up

Google is set to announce that it is working with Qualcomm to design servers based on ARM processors, in a move which could give the British chip designer some street cred in the data centre market.

Google is apparently going public with its backing for Qualcomm's chips at an investor meeting next week. It is saying that if the chips meet certain performance goals, Google will commit to using them.

It is too early to say if this is going to be the sort of support to ARM and snub to Intel that Qualcomm hopes for. Google tries lots of different technology out there to reduce its huge server costs. At this point it is uncertain if the current effort has ticked all Google’s boxes either.

Two years ago, Google supported for IBM's Power processor and it even built its own Power server board. Nothing has been said about it since. Google last year made vague statements that it's keeping its options open.

Google will test Qualcomm's server chips, just as it tested IBM's, because it wants to shave costs off of running its expensive infrastructure. It will be important if Google decides to put a new architecture in production.

More importantly it forces Intel reduce its prices and to develop new, more power-efficient parts.

Urs Holzle, who's in charge of Google's data centres, once published a paper on the topic titled "Brawny cores still beat wimpy cores, most of the time." However things have moved on a bit since 2010 when he wrote that.

It would be a surprise if Qualcomm could bag Google as a customer this early on in the game. Derek Aberle, Qualcomm's president, told investors last week that shipments would begin "probably within the next year or so." But he suggested significant sales are still "out a few years."

Last modified on 04 February 2016
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