Microsoft Developing Own ARM-Based Server Chips

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Bad news Intel? Redmond designed its own ARM-based chips for its Azure servers, and even possible future Surface device, report suggests

Microsoft is reportedly designed its own ARM-based processors for use in its Azure servers, in a move that could trouble Intel.

Sources told Bloomberg News that the new chips will not only be used in future servers, but also possible Surface devices, but it is not clear at this stage whether that will translate into a final product.

This is not the first time that this rumour has Surfaced (ahem). In March 2017, Bloomberg reported that Redmond would use ARM-based chips in the servers that run its Azure cloud service, after Microsoft had developed a version of Windows 10 that ran on ARM-based processors.

ARM-Cortex-A72

ARM move?

But that 2017 report did not materialise and Redmond still currently uses Intel-based processors for the majority of its Azure cloud services.

In addition, most of its Surface lineup run on Intel chips as well. That said, Microsoft has worked with AMD and Qualcomm for custom chips for its Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Pro X devices.

“Because silicon is a foundational building block for technology, we’re continuing to invest in our own capabilities in areas like design, manufacturing and tools, while also fostering and strengthening partnerships with a wide range of chip providers,” Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw told Bloomberg.

It also reported that Redmond has increased the hiring of processor engineers in recent years, and has been targetting recruitment in the backyard of chipmakers such as Intel, AMD, Nvidia and others made redundant when Qualcomm abandoned its server chip efforts.

“The incredible demand for computing fueled by new workloads like AI is driving more silicon experimentation in the cloud. Building on decades of x86 ecosystem innovation, we are committed to providing customers the world’s best CPUs and new products from GPUs to AI chips,” Intel was quoted as saying in a statement. “In this expanding market, we expect to gain share in many areas like AI training, 5G networks, graphics and autonomous driving.”

It seems that customers such as Microsoft are increasingly turned to alternative solutions to make sense of the mountain of data that cloud computing and smartphones generate, and the emergence of AI.

If Microsoft does opt for ARM-based processors it will mirror the path already followed Apple.

It should be remembered that Microsoft does currently uses ARM-based chips from Qualcomm in some of its Surface PCs.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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