When Macom bought Applied Micro last week and said it would sell off its X-Gene ARM server unit, the writing was on the wall. Applied has a solid business with big U.S. data centers and in 2017 and beyond they are buying bandwidth in the form of 100-400G Ethernet — not ARM servers.
In the wake of the news I heard multiple reports Broadcom was ending Vulcan, its plan for a beefy ARM server SoC made in a FinFET process with a custom core. The risky product was expected to be cancelled ever since penny-pinching Avago bought the company. (A former Broadcom engineer told me the company also canceled plans for a set-top processor using custom ARM cores.)
A representative of Cavium said he is evaluating whether to bid on the Applied X-Gene 3 and Broadcom Vulcan IP, both now up for sale. He already hired some engineers let go from both programs. Cavium’s ThunderX2 is riding high expectations in this space but may not be available in volume until 2018.
A representative from Qualcomm said he had seen some resumes from the Broadcom and Applied processor engineers. His company had already decided not to buy the ARM server IP from either company. Qualcomm is poised to soon launch its own chip, announced nearly four years ago.
Few other companies are left driving the initiative to put a dent in Intel’s Xeon processor, which commands the majority of server sockets these days.
Samsung dropped its bid long ago, and Nvidia morphed its effort into an automotive processor. AMD put its ARM server effort on the back burner to focus on x86 and graphics for its comeback. Marvell’s Armada was still kicking in demos at the ARM Tech Con last month, but one source suggested the company has stopped developing the chips.
Huawei showed a part from its HiSilicon group for internal use only based on off-the-shelf ARM cores. A report from February 2015 showed the PhosphorV660 Hip05 with up to 32 ARM Cortex-A57 cores running up to 2.1 GHz with a 32 MByte L3 cache.
Macom said it expects to sell within 100 days the X-Gene unit from Applied whose server SoCs were on display at ARM Tech Con last month.
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