|Qualcomm’s Falkor Targets Servers|
September 19, 2017
Author: Tom R. Halfhill
Stretching for the semiconductor industry’s highest-hanging fruit, Qualcomm’s new ARMv8 Centriq processor is targeting Intel’s 99% dominance of the server market. Arriving later this year, Centriq will shake Intel’s tree in the hope that some of the high-margin fruit will fall into its waiting ARMs. The new Falkor CPU is a core part of this strategy.
Falkor resembles the ARM-compatible CPUs that Qualcomm formerly designed for its Snapdragon smartphone processors but adds some higher-performance features. In one major departure, it ditches 32-bit compatibility altogether in favor of software written only for the Aarch64 instruction set.
Centriq is designed mainly for cloud-service providers (CSPs) that need bushels of power-efficient parallelism to run numerous virtual machines for their remote clients. Sampling for almost a year, the 64-bit chips are scheduled to begin production in 4Q17.
The Centriq 2400 has 48 cores, far more than any Intel or AMD server processor. Qualcomm boasts that Centriq is the first server processor manufactured in 10nm FinFET technology, but this foundry process (likely Samsung’s) is similar to Intel’s current 14nm technology. Qualcomm has been vague about the chip’s clock speed and says only that it will exceed 2.0GHz—not exactly a speed demon for a chip manufactured in a next-generation IC process.
Falkor is not a Xeon-class CPU, as it lags Skylake in both superscalar decoding and instruction-reordering capacity, among other metrics. Thus, it’s best suited to applications with lightweight threads. It should be appealing for some data-center applications, particularly if the price is low. Like other ARM server vendors, Qualcomm will probably need more than one generation to produce a truly competitive server processor.