Designed for performance and optimized for power, the Qualcomm Centriq 2400 is an impressive server processor which is well-suited to pursue cloud datacenter opportunities.
We sat down with Anand Chandrasekher, senior vice president and general manager of Qualcomm Datacenter Technologies, Inc. (QDT) to get the latest updates on Qualcomm’s QDT datacenter business, key industry trends, and strategy to address this opportunity.
Tell us about the datacenter opportunity.
The datacenter silicon industry today is valued around $15-16 billion. By 2020, it’s likely to be worth $20 billion1. This double-digit growth is largely spurred by the explosion in internet-connected consumer devices driving an enormous amount of data that are stored, processed and turned into services in datacenters. And as long as data and network traffic grows, there will continue to be growth in datacenter demand.
Why do you think there’s an inflection point that creates an opportunity for us?
The datacenter industry is being affected by two massive structural changes – both are good for QDT. First, the cloud is becoming a bigger and bigger portion of server demand, representing a massive structural change in datacenter demographics. In the past year, mega datacenter customers constituted approximately 30 percent of overall server demand2. By 2020, that number could grow to at least 50 percent and by the middle of the next decade, that number could grow to 75 percent3. These customers develop and maintain their own software, are inclined to take advantage of new technologies, and can optimize these technologies for their environments very quickly. This creates an opportunity for us because we can offer something valuable and potentially grab a reasonably sized piece of the growth in cloud.
Second, silicon process technology cadence is now being driven by the mobile ecosystem rather than the PC ecosystem. This is a very significant change as it creates the opportunity for us to be on leading edge silicon manufacturing process nodes and deliver a faster cadence of technology innovation to our customers.
Is there a specific area of the datacenter silicon industry that you intend to target first?
We’re targeting the server CPU portion first because our SoC design capabilities and access to the leading-edge process manufacturing node put us in a strong position to go after this significant industry opportunity. There’s an incumbent in this industry, but we feel that customers are very open to an alternative like ours that brings a tremendous amount of innovation they can take advantage of. Additionally, our customers are looking for diversity in their supplier base.
QDT is a new entrant in the datacenter processor arena. How are we overcoming barriers to entry?
We’re working very closely with the top tier cloud service providers to ensure our product design matches their workload needs. By aligning our roadmap to address these customers’ requirements, we’ll also address the needs of many other cloud vendors that have similar workload characteristics and utilize the same software ecosystem. Additionally, we’re staffing our organization with individuals that have previous experience and expertise in the datacenter industry to augment our already talented team.
How are server datacenter providers reacting so far to the Qualcomm Centriq 2400?
I’d say that their reaction has been enthusiastic. A broad spectrum of cloud customers are evaluating and qualifying Qualcomm Centriq 2400. They’re experiencing positive results when running our product on their own workloads. Customers are excited about our entrance into the industry as we’re delivering a technology capability that they believe could be truly groundbreaking.
What is unique about the Qualcomm Centriq 2400 compared to other competitive offerings?
There’s a few things. First, we’re delivering the world’s first 10nm server processor in the industry. Additionally, we’re delivering leadership on performance per thread, performance per watt, performance per dollar, and performance per square millimeter*. Taken together, we’ll be uniquely differentiated. In fact, we expect to be able to deliver significant value across the entirety of Intel’s newest Xeon-based product family.
We also have a few other unique features packed into the Qualcomm Centriq 2400 like L3 Cache Quality of Service. This enables large cloud customers to get more predictable performance when they’re calling on system-level resources in their datacenter environments. Another feature, Memory Bandwidth Compression, allows cloud customers to do real-time compression and decompression – which provides a nice performance kicker for workloads with highly compressible data.
Tell us about your QDT team.
We have a world-class team that is spread across multiple sites in the U.S. and across the globe. The team has experts with decades of industry experience, from companies such as IBM, Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. The CPU side of our team has been together for many generations. The core of our team began their careers by developing embedded IBM power PCs many years ago. Once they joined Qualcomm, they were responsible for building our Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU for a long time. Over the last few years, we’ve grown the team, adding more datacenter-specific skills and capabilities. They’re all extraordinarily technically competent, and have worked together for years.
What significant progress has your team made thus far?
In 2015, we began shipping our first software development platform (SDP). Qualcomm Centriq 2400 is based on the 64-bit Armv8-A architecture which is relatively new for the server space. We needed to enable the ecosystem with the SDP so our partners could start working on their software ahead of the commercial product.
In January 2016, Qualcomm Inc. and the People’s Govt of Guizhou Province formed a joint venture, Guizhou Huaxintong Semi-Conductor Technology Co., Ltd., to sell server chipset technology in China. In December 2016, we began shipping samples of the world’s first 10 nanometer server processor, which is now referred to as the Qualcomm Centriq 2400. To date, we’ve shipped well over 1000 samples to over a dozen different target customers and they’re in various stages of testing and deploying it.
We are now shipping Qualcomm Centriq 2400 and once our customers complete their testing, they’ll begin ramping up production and integrating our product into their datacenters. Comparing our performance-to-power ratio across various SKUs, we should exceed our largest competitor’s product up to 30-45 percent*. We also expect to deliver 2-4 times better performance per CPU $ than our competitor which will translate to significant TCO savings for our customers*. That’s not a bad achievement considering it’s our first foray into this industry.