Category: Servers

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ARM in servers

Posted by Charbax – May 12, 2010

Marvell is announcing the plan to offer 40-nm multicore ARM processors in servers. This is big news. It means ARM may not only power all phones, tablets, e-readers, laptops, TVs and desktops of the future, it may also power the cloud computing that serves all those devices.

In terms of price, there is a huge gap between Intel's Xeon chips some of which sell for several hundred dollars and the typical multicore ARM chip that may sell for about $35. That gives Marvell plenty of room to carve out its own profits.

The new chips will offer more than a five-fold reduction in power consumption compared to x86 processors that dominate the server market, Marvell claims.

Marvell and ARM are working with "multiple Tier 1 companies" to build larger trial deployments to validate ARM as a server platform.

partners are working on ports to ARM of x86 virtualization software also strategic for the server market.


Google could be one of the "tier one companies building larger server deployments to validate ARM as a server platform". Torben Mogensen speculates:

I think Cortex A9 multicore would be fine for its purpose. But they may design their own chip built around this core. Server chips won't need the graphics and signal processors that most high-performance ARM chips have (as the latter are targeted at media applications), but may need larger caches and MMUs capable of addressing more than 4GB of physical memory. Even if ARM has only 4GB logical address space, you can let different processes have different 4GB chunks of a larger physical memory.
But, instead of designing their own, Google may just ask Marvell, Qualcom, Nvidia or TI to design a chip to their specifications. If Google promises to buy a million chips per year, I'm sure these companies would be quite happy to do so.

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