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Qualcomm Targets Data Centres With 10nm 48-core Server CPU

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Are you watching Intel? Qualcomm trumps rival with commercial sampling of ‘world first’ 10nm server chip

Qualcomm has begun allowing selected customers to try out its ‘world first’ 10nm (nanometre) server processor, which it is aiming firmly at the data centre market.

The new chip comes with 48 custom ARM cores, and is being offered on a ‘commercial sampling’ basis via the subsidiary unit, Qualcomm Datacenter Technologies.

The fact that Qualcomm is already allowing customers to try out this new chip will cause some concern over at Intel. This is because in mid 2015, Intel pushed back the delivery date of its 10nm “Cannonlake” chips until the second half of 2017, instead of the originally planned 2015 release it had promised back in 2013.

qualcomm-signData Centre Chip

Qualcomm’s new processor is the first in the Centriq product family, and is officially known as the Qualcomm Centriq 2400 series. It features up to 48-cores and is “built on the most advanced 10nm FinFET process technology”.

The Qualcomm Centriq 2400 series boasts the Falkor CPU, which is the custom ARMv8-compliant core made by Qualcomm Datacenter Technologies, and which is geared to deliver performance and efficiency for common data centre workloads.

Qualcomm made little effort to highlight that it is first to market with a 10nm offering.

“Leading the industry to the next-generation node, today’s announcement underscores a monumental achievement in delivering leading-edge, high performance ARM-based server processors to the data centre,” it boasted.

It said the new chip allows Qualcomm Datacenter Technologies to be “uniquely positioned to address the needs of cloud customers seeking new server solutions optimised for total cost of ownership, while meeting performance, efficiency and power demands”.

“The Qualcomm Centriq 2400 series processors will drive high performance, power efficient ARM-based servers from concept to reality,” said Anand Chandrasekher, senior VP and general manager  of Qualcomm Datacenter Technologies.

“Qualcomm requires the leading edge of integrated circuit technology to deliver high performance at low power for the newest premium smartphones,” said Chandrasekher. “We are first in 10nm IC technology for mobile, and leveraging our expertise in ARM processors and system on chip design, we are the first with our Qualcomm Centriq family of server processors to bring the leading edge to the data centre.”

As part of the launch event, Qualcomm demonstrated Apache Spark and Hadoop on Linux and Java running on a Qualcomm Centriq 2400 processor.

It should be noted that the Qualcomm Centriq 2400 processor series is only sampling to key prospective customers at the moment, but is expected to be commercially available in the second half of 2017.

Busy Time

Qualcomm of course is in the middle of an expensive process to acquire Dutch chip maker NXP Semiconductors.

The deal see Qualcomm paying an eye watering $47 billion in cash (£38.5bn) or $110.00 per NXP share. Before the deal was confirmed, NXP has a market value of about $28.5 billion (£22bn), while Qualcomm was approximately $93 billion (£72bn).

Meanwhile rival Intel is in the middle of a management shakeup, and is currently seeking ways to expand beyond its traditional PC and server stamping ground, and develop new chipsets to control cars, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT).

In August it also revealed a partnership with ARM. Intel said that its chip foundry business will build chips for mobile and consumer devices based on ARM’s architecture.

And to fill in the gap left by the 10nm “Cannonlake” no-show, Intel in August released its 14nm chip called “Kaby Lake”.

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