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Natalie Lehrer
Natalie Lehrer
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Could Intel Lose Data Center Market Share to ARM Chips?

ARM chips could be an alternative for certain purposes in the datacenter, but many questions have to be answered before they pose a threat to Intel's market dominance.

The concept of niche datacenters has been floating around for several years. While many of the top companies in the world, such as Facebook, operate using niche hardware, companies like HP have been trying to help catapult chips such as ARM into datacenters under the guise of niche setups.

Recently, HP vice president Tom Bradicich was asked about HP’s new strategy to include ARM chips in low-powered cloud servers. Bradicich said, “Penetration is very low right now because we're starting from zero. But the take-up is pretty encouraging.”

Using ARM chips in datacenters has been discussed for a long time by industry experts. Implementing the low-power consumption chips has inherent advantages and disadvantages. The chips wouldn’t be of much use for general-purpose server loads, but it does appear that the ARM chips could be used for search engines or specialized server loads.

It was recently reported that Michael Dell said Dell could adopt a strategy similar to HP's. Dell went on to say, “As ARM moves to 64-bit, it becomes much more interesting; If ARM works well and costs less, we’re happy to use ARM.”

Intel spokesperson Bill Calder was quoted as saying, “We don’t take any competition lightly, but we have a strong roadmap for the data center spanning a broad range of customer needs and requirements.”

On the surface, it seems as if ARM won’t make an immediate impact on Intel’s server chip business. While the impact of ARM may not be seen just yet, who is to say that the ARM chips won’t take a chunk out of Intel’s market share within the next five years? ARM’s impact into the mobile business has been more successful than most people’s most optimistic predictions. Intel still lacks clout in the mobile chip business, and as ARM’s 64 bit processors become available, it will be interesting to see if other server manufacturers begin installing the chips for specialized loads.

Let’s add one more level of complexity to the ARM vs. Intel battle. Starting in October 2013, InformationWorld blogger Woody Leonhard wrote, “Intel isn't going to design or sell an ARM chip; Rather, Intel has agreed to use its state-of-the-art 14nm foundries to build chips for Altera.”

With this data at our disposal, it is easy to see that, while Intel may not manufacture ARM chips, it has licensed its proprietary technologies so that the micro processing giant at least has its hands inside the ARM market as it expands. While ARM chips will most certainly find their spots in datacenters all over the world, there isn’t any research to suggests that ARM will take a sizable chunk out of Intel’s server microprocessor manufacturing business.

Natalie Lehrer is a senior contributor for CloudWedge. In her spare time, Natalie enjoys exploring all things cloud and is a music enthusiast. View Full Bio
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