ARM Expects to Start Challenging x86 in Servers in Four Years

ARM Admits It Cannot Compete Against x86 in Servers Now

by Anton Shilov
12/15/2010 | 11:51 PM

While many expect ARM-based chips to revolutionize the server market in short-term or mid-term future, even the designer of the ARM architecture itself believes that chips powered by its technology will only be able to compete against Advanced Micro Devices and Intel Corp. only sometime in four years from now.


In an interview with Bloomberg news-agency, Warren East, chief executive officer of ARM Holding, said that the company aims to start eroding Intel Corp.’s dominance in the server market in 2014. This means that even the company itself does not believe in quick adoption of its processors by manufacturers of servers as well as their customers. Moreover, indirectly this claim proves that ARM-based processors in foreseeable future will not be able to offer competitive performance and features available from AMD Opteron and Intel Xeon.

“Work is under way: System designers are actively considering ARM architectures. We don’t want to raise expectations that next year there are going to be a lot of ARM servers. Of course, there aren’t," said Mr. East.

It is rumoured that ARM is close to introduce a new 64-bit micro-architecture, which will be able to target servers. But with 64-bit micro-architecture alone it is impossible to become competitive in server environment. ARM will have to offer platforms that support security, virtualization, various input/output functionality and so on.

Potentially, ARM-based chips can serve in low-cost low-power servers, where advanced processor and platform functionality are not needed. But ARM's success even in the space of low-power servers is not cast on stone. Both AMD and Intel are also working hard to decrease power consumption of their chips and the situation on the market when ARM's partners are ready with 64-bit CPUs is not known. Furthermore, servers require not only low consumption of energy, but a favorable performance-per-watt ratio. In case certain cores cannot deliver necessary amount of performance, then another server should be added, which increases power consumption rather tangibly.