Qualcomm gave a live demonstration of a new 24-core ARMv8-A SoC as part of its Server Development Platform (SDP), in San Francisco late last week. The SDP is aimed at 'hyperscale data centre customers' who undertake tasks like processing big data and machine learning. This 'world class' test system is already sampling in 'tier one' data centres, said Qualcomm, though it declined to name names. In other related announcements Qualcomm will partner with Xilinx on FPGA technology and Mellanox Technologies to offer Ethernet and InfiniBand interconnects for systems based on its new server SoC.
"As data centres evolve to support the exponential growth and innovation in data, connectivity and cloud services, Qualcomm Technologies is creating an ecosystem to meet the needs of these next-generation data centres with Qualcomm-based server technologies," said Anand Chandrasekher, SVP, Qualcomm. Chandrasekher added that Qualcomm is already incorporating changes to the SoC to finesse the product for its customers, aiming to provide full system and software readiness.
Qualcomm has been developing these ARM based server chips for over two years and it says that hyperscale data centre customers will be able to use these SoCs to tackle "some of the most common data centre workloads, including Infrastructure as-a Service (IaaS), Platform as-a Service (PaaS), big data and machine learning". PCWorld magazine says Qualcomm has the likes of Facebook and Google in its sights, as potential customers.
The combination of the low power characteristics of the ARM architecture, the use of advanced FinFET production technology, the deployment of SoCs with many cores (24 cores in the demo SoC, and more to come) and collaboration with Xilinx and Mellanox on server style technology should make its products attractive to customers.
The SDP test system was demonstrated running Linux kernel version 4.2 along with KVM virtualization, OpenStack DevStack for OpenStack cloud orchestration, guest virtual machines running a standard Linux distribution along with Apache web server and WordPress. AMD, Broadcom and others already have ARM server processors on the market but Qualcomm and its server-architecture savvy partners may be able to make a bigger ripple in Intel's pond.