ARM chips are making a big leap from mobile devices to servers. Hewlett-Packard is collaborating with a start-up company to develop servers using the processors from U.K.-based ARM Holdings, according to news reports.
The start-up partner is Calxeda, an Austin, Texas-based company partly owned by ARM Holdings. The effort is targeting companies that are looking to lower energy consumption and physical space requirements when they build large data centers. Calxeda is also reportedly in discussion with other server manufacturers, according to reports by Bloomberg News and The Wall Street Journal.
Nvidia, Marvell, Dell
Calxeda's business goal is the creation of a "silicon and software server platform based on the same energy-efficient ARM processor architecture that powers cellular handsets today," according to its Web site. The company envisions replacing a dozen Web server racks with a single rack and saving 70 percent in direct power consumption.
Other companies, including Nvidia and Marvell Technologies, have also indicated that they plan to develop ARM-based processors for servers. Dell has reportedly been researching the possibility. A new ARM chip announced last year, the Cortex-A15, offers greater memory and virtualization support, both of which appeal to server makers.
The transition of ARM from the mobile world to the data center world could indicate a major turning point in Intel's position in the computer ecosystem. Currently, Intel-based processors are used in about 90 percent of all servers, and the company has about 80 percent of the overall processor market worldwide.
Intel has made a priority of trying to get a better foothold in the world of smartphones and tablets, where ARM chips dominate. But it's going to be a challenge. A recent report from research firm DisplaySearch, for instance, projects about 50 million more tablets sold in 2017 than now, but only about 5 percent will have Intel chips.
ARM licenses its design to chip makers such as Texas Instruments, Samsung, Qualcomm, and Nvidia, for processors intended for mobile devices.
Intel's Data Center Group has seen growth in the last year that was nearly 15 percent more than the company's PC unit, and the server processor market is expected to reach about $9 billion in 2011. Interestingly, H-P is Intel's biggest customer in the Data Center Group. (continued...)