Microsoft jumps on Arm bandwagon with reports it is designing its own chips for servers, Surface
Intel has been the dominant name in computer chips for the past few decades but that dominance now looks to be under serious threat. A Bloomberg report says that Microsoft is working on an in-house design for a server chip that is based on Arm-architecture, the same technology powering most smartphones and now Apple’s new Macs. The switch to Arm architecture for server chips is gaining momentum for the same reason that Apple made the switch to Arm-based Macs -- performance-per-Watt.
Although Apple has an architectural design advantage over the Arm-based competition with its custom Arm-based designs, Arm-based chips in leading Android devices are also as fast or faster than a number of Intel x86 designs. This means that Arm-based designs for server chips, some up to 32-cores or more, are already on the market and threatening Intel’s lucrative enterprise server market. Not only are these Arm-based designs fast enough, like Amazon’s own Arm-based Graviton2 server chips, they also consume dramatically less power which can result in huge cost savings when running massive server farms. Google is also said to be working on a custom Arm-based server chip as well as consumer designs.
The same in-house design effort by Microsoft on server chips could also yield custom Arm-based silicon that could end up in more of its Surface products. Microsoft is already using a semi-custom Arm-based design that it co-developed with Qualcomm in the Surface Pro X line. Compared to Apple’s M1 chip, however, Microsoft’s SQ1 and SQ2 chips (which are based on Qualcomm’s aging Snapdragon 855 chip), are well off the pace being set by Apple. A custom in-house Arm-based chip design, however, could help to close the gap as the popularity, performance and battery life of Apple’s new Macs could kickstart increased uptake of Arm-based silicon in Windows-based PCs.