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New Azure servers to pack Intel FPGAs as Microsoft ARM-lessly embraces Xeon

'Intel Xeon Scalable Processor' hailed as 'cornerstone for new platform' with servers customised for different roles

By Simon Sharwood, 12 Jul 2017

Microsoft may have said ARM servers provide the most value for its cloud services back in March, but today it's given Intel's new Xeons a big ARM-less hug by revealing the hyperscale servers it uses in Azure are ready to roll with Chipzilla's latest silicon and will all use Chipzilla's field programmable gate arrays.

Those servers are dubbed “Project Olympus” and Microsoft has released their designs to the OpenCompute Project. In a post doubtless timed to co-incide with the release of the new Xeons, Microsoft reveals “worked closely with Intel to engineer Arria-10 FPGAs, which are deployed on every single Project Olympus server, to create a 'Configurable Cloud' that can be flexibly provisioned and optimized to support a diverse set of applications and functions.”

Redmond also praises the Xeon Scalable Processors as being jolly powerful and all that, which will help Azure to scale and handle different workloads. But it's the news that Redmond's all-in with Intel Arria FPGAs that must be warming cockles down Chipzilla way, as using Xeons as the main engine and tweaking them for different roles with FPGAs is Intel's strategy brought to life.

IBM's also embraced the new Xeons, gushing that it will be the first to offer them on bare metal cloud servers. But not, in all likelihood, the first to use them at all: Google has claims to have been running them since June 1st, 2017.

The deal that gave Google early access to Skylake Xeons was thought to be one reason Microsoft let its excitement about ARM servers emerge into public view.

But The Register does not believe that ardour and today's kind words for Xeon are mutually exclusive: Redmond is surely contemplating future Azure architectures, so while Wintel looks strong today, there's still plenty of time in which the alliance could splinter. ®

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