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Q'comm enters server market with Xilinx, Mellanox deal

Posted: 12 Oct 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Qualcomm? server? Xilinx? Mellanox? NFV?

Qualcomm has officially joined the server market after a long awaited leap from its mobile roots to the cloud. It has also unveiled a development platform based on its latest SoC, geared for top-tier server makers.

The news was hailed as the strongest validation to date of ARM's move into servers that has so far been relatively slow and bumpy. Qualcomm forged partnerships with Xilinx and Mellanox that could be important given its big data centre customers are exploring FPGAs as co-processors and carriers are adopting novel communication architectures such as network function virtualisation (NFV).

Qualcomm has "a long history of developing custom IP for high performance microarchitectures and we think we can leverage that expertise into world leading data centres," said Qualcomm president Derek Aberle. "Given our position in mobile, we are consistently at the leading node, which is very important to have in a competitive solution in data centre."

Qualcomm provided only a rough sketch of its latest SoC and no details on its road map. A pre-production SoC includes 24 custom ARMv8 cores made in a FinFET process. It also includes a memory controller, storage, PCI Express and other custom IP. Qualcomm is aiming at cloud applications such as infrastructure and platform as a service, machine learning, big data and NFV.

Qualcomm's development SoC

Qualcomm's development SoC will have fewer cores than its full production chip and a slightly different layout, which suggests that the company may be open to creating custom systems. Source: Qualcomm

Cloud computing will account for 40 per cent of the server market by 2018, a 110 per cent increase from 2013, to become a $15 billion opportunity by 2020, Qualcomm said. While the U.S. leads in server demand, China is fast approaching to feed its "under penetrated" market.

"There is more change taking place now in [the server] industry than I've ever seen, and the root cause of all that is the cloud. It's accelerating in growth, it's a worldwide phenomenon, and across all workloads," said Anand Chandrasekher, SVP of Qualcomm's data centre group. "[There] is a tsunami in the server market business and this is a good time for a new entrant to come in," he said.

Xilinx CEO Moshe Gavrielov said tight integration between its FPGAs and Qualcomm's latest server CPUs will provide a 10x to 50x gain in performance per watt. Cloud computing companies Microsoft and Baidu publicly described some of their efforts to adopt FPGAs as co-processors at Hot Chips events last year and again in August.

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