Microsoft shakes up server market with news it plans to run with Arm

There are only a small number of companies able to influence the industry in which they operate; Arm and Microsoft are two of them. So, when one of Microsoft’s senior technical leaders stood up on March 8, 2017, to announce the company was running internal cloud-based workloads on Arm-based processors side by side with production workloads, it brought two great change-makers together. There is more opportunity now to increase dynamic competition in the server market. And, I believe it will ultimately be regarded as the point when the data center began a fundamental transformation.

Dr. Leendert van Doorn, Distinguished Engineer, Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Corp., said in his accompanying blog today, “We have been running evaluations side by side with our production workloads and what we see is quite compelling. The high Instruction Per Cycle (IPC) counts, high core and thread counts, the connectivity options and the integration that we see across the Arm ecosystem is very exciting and continues to improve.”
 

“We feel Arm servers represent a real opportunity and some Microsoft cloud services already have future deployment plans on Arm servers.”

 
Van Doorn delivered his thoughts to a global audience attending the 2017 Open Compute Project (OCP) U.S. Summit later today. In his blog post van Doorn went on to say: “We feel Arm servers represent a real opportunity and some Microsoft cloud services already have future deployment plans on Arm servers.”

While his statements are measured, they will have far-reaching implications, setting the tone for the future of the server market. For Arm, this point has been a result of many years of hard work. After succeeding in mobile and seeing our technology move into a vast swathe of other sectors we recognized the need to also get involved in data infrastructure. Now we are building our investments in next-generation network infrastructure and server technologies.

The investment in the growing software ecosystem for Arm-based server technologies was also cited by van Doorn. For the latest on Arm investments in server open source and HPC ecosystems, visit Arm developer. Additionally, the total cost of ownership (TCO) gauges are shifting, opening up new opportunities for an already healthy ecosystem of innovative silicon providers. This week at OCP, you will see two of those companies, Cavium and Qualcomm, demonstrate Arm-based SoC server platforms running a version of Windows Server ported for Microsoft internal use.

Flexibility and choice

As the diversity of server workloads in the data center increases, highly-integrated SoCs are becoming more finely-tuned for specific workloads. According to van Doorn, that includes:  “Internal cloud applications such as search and indexing, storage, databases, big data and machine learning.” These are all areas that benefit from high-throughput compute capability delivered by Arm-based SoCs.

The Arm ecosystem has stepped up to this challenge with diverse choices that deliver leading-edge single-threaded performance, single SoCs with 100 highly-efficient cores and solutions uniquely designed for integrated network and storage offload. Faced with different requirements for workload optimization, data center architects have been calling for increased choice and flexibility in server architectures.  Choice and flexibility were also key reasons why the open-source community embraced Arm server technology and Microsoft’s announcement demonstrates there’s an even broader demand for flexibility and choice now resonating in the market.

The popular vision of the future is a world driven by data but that will only become real if we have a data center infrastructure capable of channeling it in a super-efficient and effective way. Today we’ll see one of the world’s most impressive technology companies taking on that challenge with Arm technology to help them create server systems that are more flexible, efficient and cost-effective.

Microsoft and Arm are change-makers by nature and they are proving that once again.

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