Qualcomm is seemingly plotting a return to the server chip market. The firm is overhauling its CPU choices after buying the upstart chip design firm Nuvia in 2021. Nuvia was based by three high-ranking engineers from Apple’s chip division, with the unique objective of designing ARM server chips (although it by no means launched a product). After Qualcomm purchased the corporate, it seemingly pivoted its new chip division from server chips to laptops and telephones. Now, in keeping with a brand new report from Bloomberg, Nuvia’s unique objective of constructing server chips might be allowed to proceed.
The report says Qualcomm is “searching for clients for a product stemming from final yr’s buy of chip startup Nuvia” with Amazon Web Services as one of many first corporations that “agreed to check out Qualcomm’s choices.” Apple has confirmed to the world that ARM chips can scale up, and on laptops, they’ve confirmed to be extra environment friendly than the x86 chips from Intel and AMD. Companies like Amazon have even began making their in-house server chips primarily based on ARM’s licensable CPU designs.
Doing higher than ARM’s off-the-shelf CPU designs would be the actual problem for Qualcomm. Despite having a near-monopoly on high-end Android cellphone CPUs, Qualcomm is not actually a CPU firm. Qualcomm SoCs function CPUs straight from ARM, the identical as many different distributors like Mediatek, Samsung, and Huawei’s HiSilicon. What retains Qualcomm on prime is all of the non-CPU components—primarily its hyper-aggressive licensing round its modems and mobile sufferers. Qualcomm owns sufficient primary mobile patents that you simply want a license from them to promote a cellphone it doesn’t matter what, and by bundling a less expensive patent license with its personal chips, Qualcomm can squeeze out the competitors. Qualcomm does some good work in GPUs and modem design, nevertheless it has by no means paid a lot consideration to the CPU a part of its SoC providing and is at present a number of generations behind the market chief, Apple.
In the server market, Qualcomm’s enterprise will not be artificially propped up by mobile licenses. This is a non-CPU firm abruptly deciding to promote CPUs, and people merchandise must compete on their very own deserves. With potential clients like Amazon already constructing ARM chips, it is one hundred pc on Nuvia to ship a CPU that’s higher than the usual ARM designs.
Qualcomm final tried to interrupt into the server market in 2017 when it spent a quick yr constructing “Centriq” server chips for Microsoft. That division was shut down within the face of a failed hostile takeover from Broadcom. It was canceled below a earlier CEO, although, and Qualcomm’s present boss, Cristiano Amon, desires to diversify Qualcomm’s product line. Nuvia CEO Gerard Williams, who was former Apple’s chief CPU architect for almost a decade, is now Qualcomm’s SVP of engineering. If the Nuvia chip designs are half as profitable as Apple’s industry-leading chips, Qualcomm may turn into a serious server chip competitor.
There’s no timeline for when Qualcomm’s server chips might be obtainable, however Qualcomm’s present schedule has Nuvia know-how exhibiting up in laptops in “late 2023.”