Cloud Computing Chips Changing

An explosion in cloud services is making chip design for the server market more challenging, more diverse, and much more competitive.

Unlike datacenter number crunching of the past, the cloud addresses a broad range of applications and data types. So while a server chip architecture may work well for one application, it may not be the optimal choice for another. And the more those tasks become segmented within a cloud operation, the greater that distinction becomes.

This has set off a scramble among chipmakers to position themselves to handle more applications using more configurations. Intel still rules the datacenter—a banner it wrestled away from IBM with the introduction of commodity servers back in the 1990s—but increasingly the x86 architecture is being viewed as just one more option outside of its core number-crunching base. Cloud providers such as Amazon and Google already have started developing their own chip architectures. And ARM has been pushing for a slice of the server market based upon power efficient architectures.

ARM’s push, in particular, is noteworthy because it is starting to gain traction in a number of vendors’ server plans. Microsoft said last month it would use ARM server chips in its Azure cloud business to cut costs. “This seemed like dream just a couple years

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