Just recently Qualcomm has reiterated their commitment to entering the low-power server market. They put on display one of their prototypes of a 48-core server, something that Qualcomm has been developing for some time. This live demonstration of its capabilities is a showcase of how far that they’ve come since they envisioned their entry into the server market.
Qualcomm Centriq 2400 could be very competitive
The road to having working silicon has been somewhat long and has had its share of issues. They began showing quiet interest in the burgeoning low-power, lower-cost server market in November of 2014. At the time there were a few players already developing hardware, and software stacks, to support the non-x86 architectures. The very next year we see Qualcomm partnering with the likes of Xillinx and Mellanox, companies already positioned and full of the knowledge necessary to break into non-standard FPGA server hardware. Their first attempt was a custom 24-core ARMv8 SoC that was available to their partners, though not quite widely available to everyone across the supply chain.
Now they’ve shown a working sample of a 48-core, 10nm, custom ARMv8 compliant SoC. They didn’t quite provide the specifics of the processor, but did show their SoC running Apache Spark, Hadoop on Linux and Java. They also didn’t share any performance numbers or projected performance numbers. But that’s expected. This isn’t quite ready for primetime and they just wanted to let us and their investors know that they’re making steady progress.
Thus far ARM hasn’t quite received a very warm welcome from the current players in the market. Though it’s true that they do have better power efficiency, that also means that performance is lacking compared to what some might want. However, Qualcomm is looking to standardize the FPGA and ARM server processor market with their CCIX consortium. With an optimized software stack, these more special purpose processors and even the ARMv8-based Centriq servers very competitive. Intel and AMD both have lower power processors design for better efficiency for certain workloads, so Qualcomm does need to play catch up. But it seems they’re doing a good job thus far.