ARM wrestles with Intel over server chips

Intel could be under threat as ARM announces it wants to overtake it in the chip for server computers market by 2014.

In an interview with Bloomberg, ARM’s Warren East said manufacturers are already looking at chips based on ARM’s technology. He also said the company’s designs will help create lower-power computers which will make data centres more efficient. However, these won’t be ready for a few years.

“Work is under way: System designers are actively considering ARM architectures,” he said. “We don’t want to raise expectations that next year there are going to be a lot of ARM servers. Of course, there aren’t.”

It’s further rumblings of all out war between ARM and Intel. Intel currently holds around 90 percent of the market when it comes to processors in servers, and is trying to push its success into the handheld-device market where ARM is doing well for itself. After almost 10 years of the hard slog trying to break into phones, Intel says its chips will begin appearing in models by the second half of next year.

ARM is ahead of Intel here – it claims customers are tackling the server market by adapting the company’s mobile phone chip designs. The Cortex line-up is the backbone of chips that power Apple’s iPhone.

Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Samsung Electronics all rely on ARM’s chip designs in processors for phones.

East added that ARM’s chips are “designed from the ground up to work on battery power”, so he’s suggesting his technology is more energy-efficient than Intel chips. According to East they don’t get as hot, either.

“We could certainly halve the power of these things,” East said. As data centres get packed more tightly with computers and chips, “the challenge is delivering the energy and taking the heat away.”