What’s the future of the data center look like? Complex and evolving. ARM CPUs are going to have a part to play, but creating a full server ecosystem around these products and achieving mass-market penetration is going to take years. Facebook’s Group Hug platform could kneecap traditional server vendors, but it only threatens Intel if it can’t build cheap processors that offer better performance per watt than its competition. At the Open Compute Summit last week, all of the vendors on question were confident that their own solutions would prove to be the best option for powering next-generation servers.
AMD has the fruits of its SeaMicro acquisition, new 64-bit ARMv8 processors in the works, and next-generation 28nm chips based on its Jaguar core launching this year, though there’s no information on whether or not Kabini and Temash will show up in servers. Intel has its own server Atom products and will refresh those chips with 22nm processors based on the first quad-core, out-of-order Atom that debuts later in 2013. ARM, of course, has server vendors like Calxeda as well as companies like X-Gene, which plans to ship its own 64-bit ARMv8 design by the second half of this year.
The winner will be decided by manufacturing, design, and scalability as much as CPU architecture. Historically, Intel has had a better handle on those issues than any other vendor on the planet. (See: Deliberate excellence: Why Intel leads the world in semiconductor manufacturing.) ARM may force Intel to innovate, but the chances of a wholesale takeover are exceedingly small.