Qualcomm and Microsoft team up, demonstrate Windows Server running on ARM

Posted March 11, 2017

Qualcomm and Cavium both devised Windows Server hardware based on ARM technology.

"It's not deployed into production yet, but that is the next logical step", said Jason Zander, VP for Microsoft's Azure Cloud Division, in an interview with Bloomberg.

One of the significant "fallouts" of this relationship, of course, is a weakening of the dependency between Microsoft and Intel. Though it is now restricted to Microsoft's data center, Qualcomm mentions this partnership will also span "multiple future generations of hardware, software, and systems". "In collaborating with Microsoft and other industry leading partners, we are democratizing system design and enabling a broad-based ARM server ecosystem". As we've talked about here at The Next Platform, despite the idea of ARM-based servers being debated for nearly a decade and the pent-up demand among end users for viable alternatives to Intel and its X86-based chips, there has not been widespread adoption of such systems.

This pairs Qualcomm's recently announced 10nm, 48-core server processor with the advanced interfaces for memory, network, and peripherals, enabling the OCP community to access and design ARM-based servers for the most common cloud compute workloads. Does this mean Olympus servers also can use ARM processors on their motherboards? The company's Data Center Group turned $17.2 billion of sales into $7.5 billion of operating profit in 2016, and Intel has been running ads that say,"98 percent of the cloud runs on Intel".

Microsoft is one of the world's largest users of servers thanks to its cloud services to challenge the likes of Amazon and Google. That client was Microsoft, people familiar with the matter said.

It has been bumpy road to legitimacy for ARM server chips. The chipmaker is working with many partners to boost adoption of the technology. Intel Xeon (Skylake) with Intel FPGA or Intel Nervana; AMD Naples.

"This is a marathon, it's not a sprint. I'm not starting to count the dollar bills any time soon", said Anand Chandrasekher, head of Qualcomm's serverchip unit who was originally with Intel. Let them fight, we say.

Intel didn't immediately return requests for comment.

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

Despite ARM-based servers being available for more than five years, they have failed to make a significant impact on the datacenter market, possibly as a result of Intel lowering the energy consumption of its processors in recent years and introducing its low-power Atom processors to the server market.

Lastly, Microsoft believes "ARM is well positioned for future ISA enhancements because its opcode sets are orthogonal".

Microsoft's Leendert van Doorn, Distinguished Engineer, Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Corp., wrote in an official blog post of how ARM servers "represent a real opportunity", to his company. Dissatisfaction with Intel's performance in datacenter computing?

"In order to use deep learning you need a supercomputer and a platform that runs any and all AI tools". Today, Microsoft fielded questions about the project and how it sees its scope and future.