Qualcomm may be planning an ARM-based server processor (again)


Qualcomm may be preparing for another race than the data center market with a new line of Arm-based processors for servers, according to Bloomberg.

The company is reportedly seeking customers to test a product from Nuvia, a semiconductor startup it bought last year that was founded by Apple’s former head of processor development.

A Qualcomm spokesperson said Qualcomm plans to integrate “next-generation processors into a broad product portfolio, including powering flagship smartphones, laptops and digital cockpits, as well as advanced systems. driver assistance, extended reality and infrastructure networking solutions”.

Qualcomm has already tried and failed to enter the Arm server market with a processor called Centriq. It was launched with a lot of hype in 2017 and discontinued a year later.

Qualcomm was not alone. There were several Arm-based server processors in the works during the latter part of the last decade, and nearly all of them were discontinued. Indeed, the interest in Arm stemmed from the desire to have an alternative to Intel, and in 2016 AMD was not a viable alternative. Then AMD CEO Lisa Su waved a magic wand and a renaissance of the Epyc processor began. With AMD now a viable alternative to Intel, interest in the Arm has faded.

Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research, believes that Qualcomm will use Nuvia technology to pursue the laptop and tablet terminal/client market first, and then it will attack the server market in a few years, especially because that Nuvia was focused on servers. “The data center is sort of a long-term goal for them. But that’s not the focus right now. And I wouldn’t expect anything immediately,” he said.

McGregor doesn’t think Qualcomm will position a future data center processor as an alternative to Intel and AMD. “No one I know ever wanted a standard Arm server instead of an x86,” he said.

Instead, Arm-based servers would be used for dedicated processes such as streaming, transaction processing, or throughput enhancement via data processing units/smart network cards.

“It would be a custom CPU core, based on the Nuvia architecture. That’s for sure. But what are they targeting with that? I don’t know,” McGregor said.

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