Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) has been powering most of the machines globally for quite some time now, but in coming months, many chip makers could challenge the Silicon Valley giant with new designs of the processor based on the ARM Holdings plc (LON:ARM) architecture, the same chip that could be found in most the world’s smartphones.
The chips of such caliber have the ability to slash the power presently consumed by the modern server. This ability to reduce the power can be very advantageous for companies like Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), who currently use tens of thousands of machines to run their web services.
With so evident competition, what is Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) doing, is it not aware of? The answer is yes the chip maker is fully aware and is busy working on its own low-power server processors based on the Atom chips it originally built for mobile devices.
Research by the University of Wisconsin revealed that things like transistor count, voltage and clock speed play an important role in a chip’s power efficiency. They also studied chips’ instruction sets, rules that describe the basic operation of the processor. The researched found that ARM Holdings plc (LON:ARM) chips and Intel chips use different instruction sets. Though the use of different instruction sets is the fundamental difference between the two types of chip, but when it comes to energy efficiency, both instruction sets are almost similar. The findings of the research were presented last month at computer research conference in China.
“There was not much of a difference,” says Karu Sankaralingam, the Wisconsin professor who led the project. “One company is not building significantly more efficient designs than another company.”
The research team analyzed ARM chips based on the Cortex A8 and the Cortex A9 architecture, an Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) Atom chip, and Intel core i7 chip, a beefier processor (originally designed for desktop and notebook machines). The team found that i7 chip uses more power, but it has been designed for higher performance. The study concluded that, under server-style workloads, both ARM and the Intel Atom chips demonstrate similar power consumption. The research team did not consider newer ARM designs, including the 64-bit ARMv8 architecture, but they believe the results would not have been much difference.
The question that arises here is that if the two rival chips are similar in performance, at least power wise, does this mean there is now war or intense competition that we have been expecting for long now. The answer may be yes or no only time will tell. But one thing we can be sure of that the new ARM server chip will provide companies like Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) with a lot more choice.