Microsoft has long signaled that it would like to extend its relationship with ARM, several years ago the company unsuccessfully tried to release a consumer device powered by these chips. Today, at the Open Compute Project Summit in Santa Clara, California, Microsoft is furthering its commitment to these types of chips by saying that it will soon incorporate them into its server designs.
The company is pursuing ARM for several reasons; Intel has been the dominant player in this segment for many years and Microsoft would like other options as a way to reduce costs when building out its data centers. Further, ARM-based chips have proven to be more efficient and output less heat, ideal characteristics for a server farm.
Microsoft is currently leaning on Qualcomm to help build out these devices and has demonstrated Windows Server running on Qualcomm’s 10nm ARM processors. Even though the company is currently working with Qualcomm, it’s highly probable that they will expand their relationships with companies like NVidia who also make ARM chips to give them additional sourcing options for its servers.
With Microsoft releasing a new variant of Windows on Arm later this year targeted at the consumer and now that they are supporting the chipset in the server environment as well, this has a big impact on Intel’s bottom-line. That company has been the leading provider of chips in both server and desktop for many years but with Microsoft moving to support ARM at all levels, it’s possible, in the near future, that your desktop and cloud are both powered by chips not made by Intel.
Considering that Microsoft is going public with its support for ARM at the server level, this is not a prototype that will never materialize into a shipping product. With Qualcomm and Microsoft pushing this agenda forward as they will both benefit with Microsoft saving money on server purchases and Qualcomm opening up an additional revenue stream, there is a strong driving force to make this product a reality.