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Intel Businesses Microsoft Windows Hardware

Windows Server on ARM Is Finally Happening, And It Should Worry Intel (bloomberg.com) 193

Mary Jo Foley, writing for ZDNet: There have been rumors for the past several years that Windows Server would be coming to ARM. Today, March 8, that rumor became an acknowledged reality. Microsoft officials said that the company is committed to use ARM chips in machines running its cloud services. Microsoft will use the ARM chips in a cloud server design that its officials will detail at the the US Open Compute Project Summit today, March 8. Microsoft has been working with both Qualcomm and Cavium on the version of Windows Server for ARM, according to company officials. From a report on Bloomberg: Intel chips have remained one of the sole big-name products widely in use. Microsoft's work with ARM, in progress for several years, could pave the way for a real challenge to Intel, which controls more than 99 percent of the market for server chips. [...] Any challenge to Intel's dominance in server chips is a threat to its most profitable business and main revenue driver as demand for PC processors continues to shrink. The company's Data Center Group turned $17.2 billion of sales into $7.5 billion of operating profit in 2016, and Intel has been running ads that say, "98 percent of the cloud runs on Intel."
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Windows Server on ARM Is Finally Happening, And It Should Worry Intel

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  • How is to get the BSOD on arm CPUs... I am getting really curious: Intel is loosing it's crown!
  • Intel is not worried. How is ARM any more of a threat today than AMD was?

    Intel started building lower powered chips a long time ago to compete with ARM and have, in a number of areas, surpassed them. Time and again, Intel has been able to ramp up their R&D to stave off serious competition. I don't see ARM being any different.

    • If Intel has been such a great success at low power chips, why is it exactly that ARM still dominates in the low power world?

      • I think that the poster meant lower power server chips for devices like NAS boxes and routers, but not mobile parts. I could be wrong, though.

      • Honestly, it's probably because the margins are so low in mobile. Maybe they could compete with a $25 system-on-chip that implements an entire cell phone, but where is the profit?

      • why is it exactly that ARM still dominates in the low power world?

        Scope. There's not a lot of markup selling a chip to a mobile phone or tablet manufacturer.

        Server hardware on the other hand... well let me count the number of ARM chips commonly used in business back-end servers. Aaaand done, didn't even need to lift a finger.

      • by Alioth ( 221270 )

        Because ARM is entrenched in that market.

        Just like Intel is entrenched in servers/desktops (and therefore incredibly hard to displace, despite the fact you could make an ARM chip just as powerful), ARM is entrenched in low power even though Intel could make a low power chip. It's not worth the effort for those making low power devices to switch to Intel due to the massive investment in time and tools it would take for what would be very slight advantage (if any - after all, due to the insane x86 instruction

      • Because until now Intel has never paid any attention to the low power market. Intel bread and butter is in the desktop and server markets. If, and that is a big if, ARM does make some in roads into the server market then I imagine Intel being the 800 pound gorilla might just have something to say about it.

        Besides intel has a excellent low power chip. I have a intel atom processor in my data pad here. The battery life on it is about 10 hours, give or take. It has roughly the same battery life a the

    • Re:Nope... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Rockoon ( 1252108 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2017 @02:17PM (#54001417)

      Intel is not worried.

      Sure, thats why Intel just did massive layoffs and struck a deal with ARM to produce 10nm chips when Intel finally figures out 10nm.

      Not worried at all.... oh... wait.... you havent been paying attention...

      • > Intel just did massive layoffs and
        > struck a deal with ARM to produce 10nm chips when Intel finally figures out 10nm.

        You wouldn't happen to have links handy by chance please? TIA.

        I don't recall seeing both of these on /.'s front page ...

    • Re:Nope... (Score:5, Informative)

      by GreatDrok ( 684119 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2017 @02:35PM (#54001559) Journal

      ARM doesn't make chips, it licenses designs to FABs who actually make them. Even Intel is making ARM chips again. Intel hasn't been able to get down to the very low power levels that an ARM CPU can run at without serious compromises on performance. ARM chips still have a lot of performance to give which is why we see them increasing rapidly each year like we did with the x86 back in the 90's and early 2000's. There's only so much that can be got out of a design and Intel has been flatlining for years since they debuted the i3/i5/i7 line and in that period ARM chips have got multiple times faster per core, and added more cores, not to mention tricks like having low and high power cores on the same die. All of this makes them attractive for servers, especially now that 64 bit ARM is out there. I've got a RP3 which is 64 bit and it zips along nicely with Linux and there's a whole bunch of useful things it can do in a machine which runs of a small USB power supply.

      • ARM are low performance chips, that's why they have the room to improve. Intel server chips crush ARM in performance. Let's take a typical hyperconverged server my employer uses with 8 six core Xeon processors, how many of your USB powered ARM servers will it take to equal that? A row of racks?

        • ARM are low performance today because they haven't had the investment x86 got. Back in the 80's when Acorn first released their Archimedes running on ARM it was 10x quicker than an equivalent Intel x86 machine. There's nothing specific to ARM that makes it low performance, just that they have been focussed on the low energy market but with a significant push the ARM architecture can easily make massive performance gains. These things look pretty neat: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2... [theregister.co.uk]

          • There's nothing specific to ARM that makes it low performance, just that they have been focussed on the low energy market but with a significant push the ARM architecture can easily make massive performance gains.

            There's nothing specific to Intel that makes it high energy, just that they have been focussed [sic] on the high performance market but with a significant push the Intel architecture can easily make massive energy reductions.

    • Re:Nope... (Score:5, Informative)

      by barc0001 ( 173002 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2017 @02:37PM (#54001575)

      Intel's low power foray into mobile SoC with the Atom platform has been about as successful as Windows Mobile was. So much so they're bailing:

      http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1329580

      "As it proceeds with a massive restructuring plan announced earlier this month, Intel will exit the smartphone and tablet mobile SoC business by ending its struggling Atom chip product line. The discontinued products include those code-named SoFIA, Broxton and Cherry Trail."

      Atom chipsets have been anemic compared to the ARM processors, and now ARM is going to move into the low end blade space for Windows/Linux servers where Intel was positioning Atoms for cloud clusters.

      • Atom was working fine on cheap netbooks and HTPCs until Intel decided it had to compete on smartphones and tablets and then it failed. In addition they didn't invest as much on new designs as they should and they get outclassed by current top ARM processors as well.

      • Intel has not struggled in the phone business because the processors suck. It's because they handicap the processor and put limits on their use to try to avoid cannibalizing desktop and server sales.

        It's those restrictions that have kept them out of the market, not performance or cost. Intels Atom line could have taken over the phone business if Intel had released all those restrictions, but they likely would have lost the desktop market to them as well which would have decimated their profits. They decided

      • The latest phone Atom chips were perfectly competitive with midrange ARM stuff [anandtech.com], but I don't think they saw any economic sense continuing this.

        And ARM servers were supposed to be huge every year since iPhone made it big, I recon this will happen during the year of the Linux desktop.

        • > And ARM servers were supposed to be huge every year since iPhone made it big,

          Thing is without Microsoft along for the ride that wasn't really a possibility, at least to start. Now it is. Run it all on an ARM with x86 emulation so no porting. As long as the emulation performance hit isn't terrible the cost savings for cloud farms will be tempting.

      • Intel's low power foray into mobile SoC with the Atom platform has been about as successful as Windows Mobile was. So much so they're bailing:

        As opposed to ARM's foray into high performance desktop and server processors, which doesn't even exist. Oh but it could be done, it's just that the ARM licensees don't like money.

        Like I always say though, the design / product that hasn't yet been implemented will always win against the one that has.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Intel is not worried. How is ARM any more of a threat today than AMD was?

      Intel started building lower powered chips a long time ago to compete with ARM and have, in a number of areas, surpassed them. Time and again, Intel has been able to ramp up their R&D to stave off serious competition. I don't see ARM being any different.

      Exactly.

      ARM will not replace Intel in the high-power CPU market. The one that's Intel's bread and butter with Xeons that cost $10,000+.

      ARM will however replace the lower power CPU m

      • Exactly. Not every server is a high-end number crunching machine. The only server I'm running right now that I wouldn't really contemplate moving to ARM if it were available and was more economical than x86 would probably be our RDBMS servers, where cycles mean a helluva lot. But for our web, email, file and print servers, frankly when I look at them, they're spending a helluva lot of time idling, and the reason I don't virtualize all of them on one server is more about redundancy. As it is we have a three

      • ARM will not replace Intel in the high-power CPU market.

        Of course not, but there is a company that makes high-power cpu designs and will be buying time on 10nm fabs before Intel figures out 10nm.

        So for low power, Intel cant compete at all, and in high power, Intel will be behind.

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        When you have an existing x86 VM host farm, how exactly does ARM look appealing? I can't add ARM hosts to the same cluster because they can't run the same VMs as the existing x86 hosts.

        What's the need for adding any more overhead in the form of a new CPU category, new hardware, etc, when the marginal hardware cost of adding an additional VM to most existing VM environments is essentially zero?

        Maybe this makes sense in niche cases where you have zillions of low-power server images and you're building cluste

      • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

        A VM can burst easily if load spikes, a physical server cannot unless you build the software to cluster and add more physical servers...
        Having 32 VMs in a 1u server is no problem, i have a 1U server with 144gb ram that's a few years old now (hp dl160 g6) that runs many linux instances, some with as little as 128mb of ram.
        These VMs may be small, but they will beat small arm servers on processor bound tasks assuming that only a small number of them are under load at any one time (which is the case)... The onl

    • Re:Nope... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2017 @04:05PM (#54002261)

      How is ARM any more of a threat today than AMD was?

      It's not. You're just ignoring the fact that AMD has on several occasions been a threat to Intel.

      • only for very short periods of time where Intel was caught mid cycle so AMD got 6-12 months to get some market. Not sure they really saw it as a significant threat though as Intel would have been well aware of what they had in the pipeline for the next 3-5 years.
        • Yep I'm sure a monopoly suddenly releasing capable server chips and desktop chips for half the cost was no threat at all. Intel are really good at one thing: resting on their laurels.

          I would wager the opposite: AMD had for long periods been a serious competitor to Intel with shorter periods resulted by some stupid business decisions and the odd dud product.

  • by ruir ( 2709173 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2017 @02:15PM (#54001407)
    Got malware?
  • Everybody knows, "the Cloud runs on Intel."

  • Whether this should worry Intel does not depend on Intel's market share in the server world, but on Microsoft's. I suspect not all that much.
  • luckily AMD recently pulled their ARM server Zen line turned back to X86 [pcworld.com]. guess they wanted to shore up that 1%.
  • I started my career running NT on Alpha's, great runners, good performance and reliability. However, near zero support from the third party ISVs or add on hardware manufacturers (third party NIC and RAID cards for instance). Unless there is strong market uptake of servers using ARM, I foresee much the same path as NT on Alpha did.
    • Exactly. When you're using Linux or one of the BSDs, most of the apps you want to run are FLOSS, and it's just a question of recompiling them. With Windows, most of the applications you'll want to run are X86 binaries which will have to be translated (i.e. slow) to run on ARM and will be probably buggy. It's dead on arrival.

      Perhaps Microsoft could use it internally on Azure but I don't see this having much impact.

    • Thank goodness someone else remembers. I keep seeing these "Windows coming to ARM" stories and remember Windows NT... which used to run on IA-32, MIPS, DEC Alpha, PowerPC, Itanium, x86-64 and ARM. The same old shit is shiny new again.
  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2017 @02:51PM (#54001693)

    Will it run in a VM? will arm systems be locked to windows boot loaders? don't want to be stuck with hyper-v.

  • Do ARM chips have the pci-e for storage / 10-gig-e?

    • Do ARM chips have the pci-e for storage / 10-gig-e?

      Yes.

      Marvell:Armada XP supports four PCI-e 2.0 ports (two x4 ports can be configured to Quad x1 – up to 16 lanes)
      Calxeda: Energycore SoC supports PCI Express Four (4) integrated Gen2 PCIe controllers

      nVidia Tegra 2 also supports PCI-e. The ARM and PCI-e licenses are compatible. Electrically of course, the choice of supported buses is entirely up to the chip designer.

  • Let's assume the following :
    - 25% of servers run Linux
    - 50% of servers run Windows
    - Linux is compatible with ARM
    - 1% of server CPUs are ARM, the remaining 99% are Intel
    - All ARM servers run Linux
    - The situation with Windows Server will now be the same as with Linux regarding platforms.

    With these generous assumptions in mind, Intel market share will drop from 99% to 97%, that's 2% less sales, big deal...
    The reason servers don't run ARM is not because of incompatibilities. It is because they need more computi

    • by sl3xd ( 111641 )

      Let's look at this slightly differently:

      The age of the x86 family being a dominant platform is waning, as mobile computing continues to eat away its market share. It's not that the PC slice is "shrinking", so much as the rest of the market is growing much faster.

      Intel isn't headed by fools, and they are aware that they're missing an opportunity. There's money Intel hasn't been successful in getting. Intel has been trying to enter the low-power, portable, and embedded markets, and has been unsuccessful thus

      • So think of it this way: ARM is able to encroach into a market where Intel dominates, but the reverse is not true, in spite of many attempts.

        This isn't really the case though.

        Intel made one or two pushes into small/mobile and failed. There have been a number of attempts to get ARM into the datacenter. AMD even did a start/stop with ARM.

        Realistically, the incumbent in each market enjoys a number of advantages---working infrastructure like peripheral device standards, solid drivers and high-level interfaces, and strong validation/support from industry partners.

        These practical advantages are worth far more than the theoretical advantage offered by

      • So think of it this way: ARM is able to encroach into a market where Intel dominates, but the reverse is not true, in spite of many attempts.

        ARM is able huh? I guess the lack of any high performance ARM processors is due to the fact that ARM licensees don't like money?

        The product that doesn't exist will always beat the one that was built. No nasty aspects of physics and market forces to get in the way of it's success.

      • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

        Behind mobile computing lies huge datacenters full of powerful servers. This is Intel's new market.
        Intel isn't pushing that hard for the embedded market. They made a few half-assed attempts but that's about it. The reason they don't push harder, I think, is price. There is plenty of competition in the mobile market and margins are thin. Intel is a big US-based company with high running costs, there is no way it could win a price war.
        It is much better suited for high performance computing where margins are h

  • Enjoy the CPU overhead of emulating x86 programs on an ARM CPU!

    • Why would they do that? Most of what constitutes Windows, even 20 years ago, was portable. If there's a port of the CLR, well that's .NET (and much of Powershell and its toolkit) taken care of, and I'm sure even CMD.EXE and the older NT toolkit having been built on a system intended to be portable between architectures, is still cross-compiliable. I can imagine that some things like many Server components will require some work to run natively on ARM, I cannot imagine MS going to the effort to produce an AR

  • by caseih ( 160668 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2017 @03:29PM (#54001953)

    ARM has been an interesting platform of late, but a lot less useful than it could be. Proprietary bootloaders, custom hardware trees, all work against it. No ARM device that I know of can run a stock, off-the-shelf Linux distro with a fairly stock kernel. Not even the Pi. Maybe if MS starts pushing a Window ARM platform, it might provide impetus to manufacturers to standardize the boot loader and the platform so off-the-shelf OS's can run.

    I have a drawer full of various ARM devices that were theoretically really neat and useful but in practice proved to be more trouble than they were worth. For example I have two sheevaplugs but the effort to try to update them from their default ancient ubuntu distro is via tftp and serial port u-boot prompt is just not worth the effort. I got more utility with a cheap Intel NUC, even though it was several times the cost of the plug.

    Life is a bit better with the Pi since I can just burn a new SD card and boot on it. Still requires a custom distro and kernel. Repeat for every SBC like the Pine64.

    Until things get more standardized, I'm skeptical that ARM will do any serious damage to the Intel hegemony, low power notwithstanding.

    • by sl3xd ( 111641 )

      No ARM device that I know of can run a stock, off-the-shelf Linux distro with a fairly stock kernel.

      The Raspberry Pi is one of the more proprietary ones out there, and gets away with being non-standard because the Foundation maintains the fork well enough that few feel any desire to use a standard distribution and kernel (instead opting for NOOBS or Raspbian).

      On the other hand, the C.H.I.P. and BeagleBone Black both use standard kernels, and use that fact as a selling point.

      In fact, most non-Pi small board

      • by caseih ( 160668 )

        Very interesting. So I can just run stock ARM Debian on the BBB? And move the SD card to the C.H.I.P. and have it boot up? If so, that's good news.

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