Is Google Really Ready to Switch to ARM?

There have been cascades of repeated headlines and rumor-rich articles running over the last few days that assert that Google is “looking to replace Intel with Qualcomm ARM chips” for their data center servers.   Everyone loves a good fight, so its not surprising that the press is jumping up and down, yelling “Fight!  Fight!  Fight!”   But seriously folks,  do you really think that Google would announce such a strategy before they even see silicon?

First, I have not seen any reports claiming that Qualcomm is sampling silicon yet.  It takes a lot of time and effort to produce, optimize, and test an SOC, especially one capable of meeting the challenges of the datacenter.  And even if they are sampling, its only first silicon samples, which means it won’t be full performance (frequency) nor fully functional.  Which means Google cannot be certain that it meets their requirements.  Hey,  Google didn’t become the largest company in the word (at least for a few moments) by making brash decisions about their technology.

Second, Google, no doubt, is anxious to lower costs by evaluating alternative technologies, including ARM and POWER.  But having worked with them before,  I can tell you that they will be thorough, methodical,  and meticulous in their analysis of any Xeon alternative. They will need at least a year, I would suspect, before they put anything into pre-production.   And they will likely avoid a patchwork approach of workload specific architectures, which creates lifecycle and system/network management process nightmares.

Finally, Google is very very smart. They will happily talk about potential Intel replacement technologies, because this puts Intel on notice and strengthens their negotiating position.

So, I think its great that Google likes the PROMISE of Qualcom’s ARM SOC!   But that is a far cry from the predicted premature announcement that they will adopt it.  More likely, they will say they are working with Qualcomm, just like they are working with