Samsung is planning to launch its own server chips based on the ARM architecture. According to a report by the Seoul Economic Daily, the South Korea-based company intends to come out with a low-power, multi-core ARM chips for micro-servers sometime in 2014. Moreover, the company will launch high-performance multi-core ARM chips for Windows 8 later this year.
Samsung has been recruiting various chip specialists from Advanced Micro Devices. The company, according to a report by xbitlabs.com, has hired Patrick Patla, who until very recently was Vice President of AMD, and General Manager of AMD Opteron business unit. Patla now serves as Vice President of Samsung Electronics in Austin, Texas. The report goes on to cite ex-AMD employees saying that Samsung has been “hiring AMD processor designers and installing them in its Austin, Texas design offices in an effort to build server processors rivaling Intel’s Xeon products”.
ARM-based server chips by Samsung coming soon
The report states that the timing of Samsung's planned server processor implies that the company is working on a chip based on ARM v8 architecture. “The conglomerate already introduced Exynos 5250, a dual-core ARM Cortex-A15 system-on-chip for mobile applications, late last year and based on its capabilities, adding ECC memory support and some other server-specific things would quickly make the SoC suitable for micro-servers. Therefore, it is natural to imply that Samsung is working on a 64-bit multi-core ARMv8 processor specifically designed for server applications that is due around two years from now,” the report reads.
Samsung is also developing Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 chip as the latter faces a supply crunch from its main foundry, Taiwan-based Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TMSC). Qualcomm has also approached UMC for making supplying S4 chips. There aren’t many details regarding the tie-up with Samsung, so we still don’t know the percentage of the chips they’ll manufacture. TSMC’s inability to satisfy the demand has led to a good monetary opportunity for Samsung and UMC. We don’t believe Samsung is too thrilled about the fact that many OEMs still prefer Qualcomm’s chips over its Exynos chips. In fact, their very own Galaxy S III uses a Qualcomm S4 chip in the US instead of the quad-core Exynos.
Apart from Samsung, there are a number of companies that are developing server chips using the ARM architecture, including Applied Micro, Calxdela, Nvidia, and others. According to the report, adding server-specific functionality to chips many not be a problem, but what remains to be seen is how powerful such microprocessors will be to compete against x86 in terms of raw performance.