The Stack Archive

Microsoft commits to ARM processors on new cloud services infrastructure

Wed 8 Mar 2017

It’s a threatening time for Intel – in addition to the resurgence of AMD in the form of its business oriented Naples and consumer-oriented Ryzen CPUs, it now seems that Microsoft is committing itself to ARM processors in its cloud infrastructure, eschewing a long-standing relationship with Intel.

According to Jason Zander, VP of Azure Cloud, Redmond has a clear vision for the place of ARM in its new cloud server design. ARM’s low power usage and general economy has propelled its processors beyond the small-unit sector into the computing mainstream over the last 5-6 years.

Zander says:

“It’s not deployed into production yet, but that is the next logical step. This is a significant commitment on behalf of Microsoft. We wouldn’t even bring something to a conference if we didn’t think this was a committed project and something that’s part of our road map.”

The move to ARM seems to be part of a dedicated push towards premier place in the cloud market – a place currently occupied by Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Microsoft will be discussing the initiative today at the Open Compute Project Summit in Santa Clara, California, announcing new channel partners and components as it prepares to retool or rethink its own current Intel-based data centre infrastructure.

The ARM architecture will form a part of Project Olympus, Microsoft’s next-gen hyperscale cloud framework design. Project Olympus continues Microsoft’s growing enthusiasm for the commercial possibilities of open source. Like Facebook, which has disrupted the data centre market over the last year with dedicated and highly-resourced designs and components, Microsoft is working with the Open Compute Project to ensure industry involvement in the new frameworks.

Last year Kushagra Vaid, GM of Azure Hardware Infrastructure, commented:

“We’re taking a very different approach by contributing our next generation cloud hardware designs when they are approx. 50% complete – much earlier in the cycle than any previous OCP project. By sharing designs that are actively in development, Project Olympus will allow the community to contribute to the ecosystem by downloading, modifying, and forking the hardware design just like open source software.”

Currently over 90% of Microsoft’s server purchases are based on specifications from the OCP foundation.

ARM chips will not be the only novel technologies to appear in Olympus, which will also feature high-availability power supplies, high-density storage expansion capacities, a new take on the universal server rack PDU for worldwide interoperability between data centres, a new universal motherboard and a 1U/2U server chassis.


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