Well, that cat's finally coming out of the bag. In what's seen in the tech world as an inevitable future, ARM-based chips look to be heading en masse to servers worldwide—in this case, those in Microsoft's cloud infrastructure. According to Bloomberg, the computing giant ported Windows Server to the ARM architecture and is currently testing ARM chips in servers, in preparation for a production deployment in the near future.
Bloomberg says that Microsoft made Windows run on ARM CPUs in a partnership with Qualcomm and Cavium. Microsoft is testing the new chips in search, storage, machine learning, and big-data tasks. The chips will be a part of Microsoft's new open-source cloud server design Project Olympus, announced last year. The company will be offering an update on Olympus at the currently-running Open Compute Project Summit in California.
Using ARM-based chips doesn't appear to be a "let's see what sticks" hobby for Microsoft. In an interview with Bloomberg, Azure VP Jason Zander stated that "this is a significant commitment on behalf of Microsoft. We wouldn't even bring something to a conference if we didn't think this was a committed project and something that's part of our road map." Zander didn't offer to disclose exactly how widespread a production rollout will be, though.
The writing on the wall is clear to anyone that's not living in a pineapple under the sea: Microsoft's impending adoption of ARM-based chips is likely the first challenge to Intel in the server arena. Intel reportedly holds 99% of the server CPU market, and it won't easily part with market share. According to Bloomberg, the first punch may already have landed, as Hewlett Packard Enterprise recently reported poor quarterly revenue thanks to "significant lower demand" from a major customer, believed to be Microsoft. Let them fight, we say.