Ever since ARM took over the mobile world, we’ve been hearing about how the RISC architecture was trying to expand into other higher performance areas. While ARM first entered the server world via relatively weaker micro-servers, it looks like performance options are coming along soon. Qualcomm, one of the major ARM partners and licensees, has unveiled their first 24-core server processor.
Running off the latest ARMv8-A instruction set, the chip will be part of Qualcomm’s Server Development Platform and part of a stack of server tools. While details on the chip itself have been slim, we do know that it is based off a FinFET process, meaning either TSMC 16nm or Samsung 14nm. The core is also fully custom meaning it is not like the A57/A53 found int he Snapdragon 808/810 and given the server environment, probably isn’t Qualcomm’s in-house 64bit Kyro architecture found in the Snapdragon 820.
Along with the Soc, the SDP also includes server-class PCIe and storage interconnects. Other hardware requirements like ethernet and FPGA are to be proved by Mellanox and Xilinix respectively. On the software side, SDP comes with a software stack capable of running a KVM Linux hypervisor, OpenStack DevStack, and guest Linux distributions running Apache and WordPress as shown in the demo.
With a complete package available, Qualcomm stands a good chance at breaking into the server market. The biggest question is if ARM will be able to bring the same performance to the table as x86 does while still remaining more power efficient and cheap. This is especially true of single threaded IPC where Intel has historically dominated.