Today, Pat Gelsinger was quoted in a blog by Tiernan Ray of Barron’s Tech Trader Daily as seemingly dismissing the place or relevance of ARM architectures in server technology. Mr. Gelsinger noted that EMC is “skeptical” about ARM chip architecture or chips outside of Intel and AMD finding uptake. He went on to focus on how dropping power consumption of x86 wouldn’t make much of a difference and says “Chip architectures don’t change because of 25% power improvements…”
I see such statements as a classic case of either focusing on technology instead of customers or couching a response to protect the position of one’s company. Whatever the case, I don’t believe it to be an accurate representation despite my respect for Mr. Gelsinger and his personal success.
Leveraging ARM in servers isn’t about chip architectures, it’s about Total Cost of Ownership. Which translates into taking a full datacenter’s worth of servers and putting it into a single rack. Which translates into taking a full datacenter’s worth of cabling, complexity, networking, and support cost, and making it a blip on a CIOs budget compared to today. Which translates to businesses putting their dollars toward their people and innovating against their competitors.
ARM in servers is a fast approaching mainstream reality that most organizations will have to consider in their desires to actually stay ahead and keep up with the realities of IT. Just as Open Systems and client/server wasn’t a “niche” in following mainframe, nor was SAN and NAS a “niche” in following direct connect, nor was virtualization and hypervisors a “niche” in following dedicated server-OS, and neither will ARM be a “niche” following x86 and RISC. It’s an evolution that lends itself to expanding what’s done in the datacenter. ARM processors will absolutely compliment with significant presence but not wholly replace x86 servers in the datacenter. Fortunately for those companies leading the way in this trend and working closely with all of the leading chip vendors to ensure customers are ready for the next datacenter reality without compromising on current needs of rack and tower and blade architectures.