Microsoft rumored to be developing its own custom Arm chips for servers and Surface PCs

David Matthews

Posts: 426   +82
Staff member
Why it matters: Microsoft seems next to line to kick Intel to the curb. The company is rumored to be developing in-house Arm silicon for its servers and possibly Surface devices. This would allow Microsoft greater flexibility for its Azure cloud offering, while not being beholding to its traditional chip partners.

Microsoft is no stranger to development of custom chips. The company collaborated with Qualcomm to create the custom Snapdragon SQ1 for the Surface Pro X and later updated it with the SQ2. The Surface Laptop 3 has a custom Ryzen 3 processor. However, this would be the first time Microsoft would wholly develop Arm chips without any partners. This would definitely be a blow to Intel who currently powers the servers in Microsoft's Azure cloud service.

Following in Apple's footsteps, Microsoft may be designing its own Arm-based chips for servers and possibly Surface devices, according Bloomberg News. The initial use-case would be in Microsoft's Azure data centers but the company is also exploring development of a separate chip for consumers. That said, there's no concrete evidence that Microsoft will definitely go down that road.

Amazon started transitioning to its custom Arm chips back in 2018 with "Graviton" processors. It followed that up with a 2nd generation Arm chip that was 20 percent faster than before. Microsoft's shift to custom Arm silicon for servers could spark a marked shift in how large tech companies manage their data centers.

While Microsoft's custom server silicon may not be as powerful as Intel Xeon or AMD Epyc, this does allow Microsoft to control their own destiny, similar to Apple's ambitions.

According to Bloomberg, the chip design team will be lead by Jason Zander, who is currently over Azure. While no official acknowledgment was given, Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw issued a statement saying:

"Because silicon is a foundational building block for technology, we’re continuing to invest in our own capabilities in areas like design, manufacturing and tools, while also fostering and strengthening partnerships with a wide range of chip providers."

Like Amazon and Apple, Microsoft probably sees better long-term advantages for building its own server silicon. Custom chips can be built to do specialized tasks and provide better net performance than Intel or AMD.

Additionally, Microsoft wouldn't be weighed down by waiting on its partners to innovate. Check out our feature here for more reasons why Apple's M1 chips matter. That article dovetails nicely with Microsoft's reasoning behind the move to Arm-based silicon.

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duckofdeath

Posts: 297   +403
The Surface X with a custom chip launched a year ago, Apple doesn't have a custom server chip for linux. So, where are they following again? RDF needs to get out of tech.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 8,001   +6,775
In earlier years they were a powerhouse but went with Intel because of the cost factor. Now days, with the cost of production being lower and footprint of those systems being so much smaller, they can once again eliminate their dependence on "others". They have obviously done a protracted cost vs. benefit analysis and found it favorable .... all that remains is to find out if they can produce the same or better quality ...... time will tell .....
 

Makste

Posts: 136   +93
I'm waiting for the news that'll happen on the 31st of December 2020 as the eventful year goes out with a bang.
2020 has been a year of defiance. Each bully found its respective match, the bigger the bully, the greater the pain.
 

DZillaXx

Posts: 219   +326
“ Following in Apple's footsteps,...”

When in reality its more like following in Amazon's footsteps.

Microsoft also had their OS running on publicly available for much much longer than apple. Even if it wasn't ready "Surface RT".

Though IMO idk why MS choose Qualcomm over Nvidia for their current Surface Designs. But once we see something with the cortex X1 design, the surface devices will be more in line with apple for single thread performance.
 

smartroad

Posts: 21   +22
Meh, wait until Nvidia has brought ARM and then shuts down the licensing model as they then just want ARMs tech to integrate into thier own silicon LOL
 

Lew Zealand

Posts: 1,777   +1,911
TechSpot Elite
Meh, wait until Nvidia has brought ARM and then shuts down the licensing model as they then just want ARMs tech to integrate into thier own silicon LOL

That's a horrible way to do business. How long to you think it would take Nvidia to recover $40 Billion making their own silicon? Almost forever.

Licensing it where it's at and I'm sure Arm, and now Nvidia, is wringing lotsa money out of Apple, Qualcomm, Amazon and everyone else who wants to use Arm IP in their designs. Licensing is king.
 

smartroad

Posts: 21   +22
That's a horrible way to do business. How long to you think it would take Nvidia to recover $40 Billion making their own silicon? Almost forever.

Licensing it where it's at and I'm sure Arm, and now Nvidia, is wringing lotsa money out of Apple, Qualcomm, Amazon and everyone else who wants to use Arm IP in their designs. Licensing is king.
I hope you are right, but they wouldn't be the first business to buy another company for the tasty bits and then sell off the rest.
 

Mugsy

Posts: 716   +144
Steve Jobs once said that "Whatever Apple does, Microsoft tries to copy 6 months later."