ARM has had a very good run in mobile so far, but the British chip designer has been looking beyond phones and tablets for a while. It wants to muscle in to the server space, along with wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT).
In an interview with Bloomberg, ARM chief exec Simon Segars said there are already “a number” of licensees who are designing ARM-based server parts. As we all know, some big names are on the list, including AMD.
ARM hoping to disrupt server market
Segars stopped short of naming all companies interested in ARM servers, but he insists there is no shortage of interest.
“Lots of people we talk to are very interested in the disruption that can come in the data center from moving from an architecture where there’s a processor with a bunch of chips sitting around it to an SoC that’s tailored for a specific application,” he told Bloomberg.
AMD’s first ARM-based micro-server chips are already here. AMD announced the Opteron A1100 (Seattle) earlier this year. The A1100 features up to eight Cortex A57 64-bit cores, along with support for ECC DDR4.
There is a good chance that AMD’s archrival Nvidia will enter the ARM server space with its custom ARMv8 core, codenamed Denver. Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang recently said the company is seeing a lot of interest for Tegra-based micro server parts.
AMD and Nvidia are in a unique position, as they can both add advanced GPU designs to their ARM-based chips, giving them an advantage in niches that require some degree of parallel computing.
Smart watches, toasters and more
ARM is planning to ride the wearables wave, too. The company already has a lot of designs to offer and it is eyeing wearables and IoT.
ARM’s A-series chips like the A9, A15 and A57 are intended for more traditional markets, although 64-bit parts like the A57 are going after servers in addition to mobiles. M-series parts are quite a bit different, as they are designed to be as tiny as possible, allowing them to be used in wearables and IoT products.
The recently announced Cortex-M0+ is a good example. It is clocked at 48MHz and it measures 2mm x 1.3mm, but its power is measured in nanowatts, making it the obvious choice for tiny devices such as smart wristbands, thermostats and other connected devices.
Many analysts argue wearables and home automation devices are the new black. As smartphones and tablets mature, chipmakers are bound to start focusing on new markets, ranging from smart watches, through home automation systems to infotainment systems and smart cars.
ARM is currently in a good position to tap each one of these emerging markets, while at the same time maintaining its mobile lead and going after the micro server market.