According to a Bloomberg report, Microsoft is testing its own custom Arm chips for use in future Surface notebooks and possibly even in its Azure servers that presently run Intel’s Xeon offerings. While the former will have little impact on the consumer x86 market, the latter might lead to Intel losing a major customer in the server space. This rumor comes just months after Apple launched its first MacBooks based on in-house Arm designs, ditching Intel after more than a decade-long partnership.
Microsoft isn’t the first Cloud provider working on an Arm alternative. Amazon has already deployed the Graviton processors which are built using the latest Data Center Arm core architecture. There are many new players in the sector such as Ampere and Marvel leveraging Arm designs and fighting it out in an industry dominated by x86 products.
Although AMD’s new Epyc Rome and upcoming Milan processors offer a significant boost compared to rival Xeon parts in multi-threaded workloads as well as I/O and bandwidth, 90% of Data Centers are powered by Intel’s chips which are still based on a 14nm based design that’s 5+ years old at this point.
As far as the Surface PCs are concerned, it won’t really be a surprise if Microsoft introduces another Arm product based on custom Arm cores. There are already multiple variants based on Qualcomm’s processors, most notably the SQ1.