Maybe 2017 will be the year that ARM servers finally become a thing. After demoing a 24-core server chip a little more than a year ago, Qualcomm's Datacenter Technologies subsidiary has announced the Centriq 2400 CPU. This new chip is a 48-core ARMv8 processor based on a new in-house CPU core design called Falkor, and it's compliant with ARM's Server Base System Architecture specification. Earlier in the week, Qualcomm showed off the new hardware running "a typical datacenter application" comprising Linux with Java and Apache Spark.
Qualcomm makes some pretty bold claims about its new chip. The company says the Centriq 2400 is the first-ever server processor fabricated on a 10-nm process, and that it's power-efficient, scalable, and will offer "high performance." In the context of the datacenter, "high performance" means going head-to-head with Intel's Xeons, and that's usually regarded as a tall order, even for atypical, powerful ARM processors.
There's been a lot of talk about ARM CPUs heading into servers in the past few years, but that idea has yet to really pan out. Previous attempts in this space failed to be competitive when dealing with typical server workloads and were generally no more power-efficient than Intel's offerings. Qualcomm is staying tight-lipped about the technical details of the Falkor core and the Centriq 2400's platform, so perhaps the CPUs have the secret sauce needed to compete with Xeons.
Qualcomm says it's already sampling Centriq 2400s to industry partners, and that it expects commercial availability of the new chips in the second half of 2017.