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Thursday, March 09, 2017

Microsoft Azure backs ARM chips for servers

By Nick Flaherty

Microsoft is optimising its Azure cloud services infrastructure for ARM64 servers. After a numer of false starts in ARM-based servers, this will see Qualcomm and Cavium collaborating on current and future datacentre requirements and new architectures.

Microsoft is running internal cloud-based workloads on ARM-based processors side by side with production workloads. “We have been running evaluations side by side with our production workloads and what we see is quite compelling," said Dr. Leendert van Doorn, Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft Azure. "The high Instruction Per Cycle (IPC) counts, high core and thread counts, the connectivity options and the integration that we see across the ARM ecosystem is very exciting and continues to improve. We feel ARM servers represent a real opportunity and some Microsoft cloud services already have future deployment plans on ARM servers.”

Qualcomm is demonstrating its Centriq 2400 10nm, 48-core server processor.

The demonstration with Cavium runs on their flagship 2nd generation 64-bit ThunderX2 ARMv8-A server processor SoCs for datacenter, cloud and high performance computing applications.

Cavium, who collaborated with leading server supplier Inventec, and Qualcomm have each developed an Open Compute-based motherboard compatible with Microsoft’s Project Olympus that allows Microsoft to deploy the new servers in the Azure datacentres.

Other chip makers are also developing single chips with large number of ARM cores for server applications.

Phytium Technology in China last year showed a chip with 64 64bit ARMv8 cores. The FT-2000/64 has 4.8 bn transistors on a die 25.20 millimeters in width and 25.38 millimeters in length within a chip package 55 millimeters in width and 55 millimeters in length.

Engineers from Phytium said the new chip, with 64-bit arithmetic is able to perform 512 billion floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) at base frequency of 2.0 GHz and 100W of power dissipation.

Phytium has designed its own cores, known as FTC661s, with a license for the ARMv8 architecture.

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