Sign up to receive 5 free days of our daily summary for tech news.

Amazon, Facebook Eye New Chips for Servers

Amazon.com, Google and Facebook are gaining expertise in a closely watched area of the server and microprocessor business, in a potential challenge to Intel.

For years, tech giants have built data centers comprised of larger servers that run x86 chips, the same microprocessors that run PCs and are mostly made by Intel. But new types of servers are emerging that can be more cost effective in part by using chips that are similar to those that power most mobile phones.

The so-called microservers use chips based on designs licensed by ARM, a U.K. firm whose technology is also used in iPhones, iPads and myriad other mobile devices.

The chips aren’t as powerful as the x86 processors found in most servers today, but they have two main benefits: They’re smaller and less power-hungry than traditional chips, and they’re not made by Intel, which controls around 95 percent of the market for server processors.

The new technology has created openings for tech companies that already design their own servers to also design the chips that power them and wean themselves off near-total dependence on Intel. The big Internet companies are still just testing the technology. But it holds the promise of allowing them to create microprocessors specifically designed for unique tasks, leading to power savings that could save them huge sums.

No subscription? You're missing out.

Join the high-powered community of tech and business leaders who rely on The Information's original news and in-depth reporting.

At this point, what stands in the way of Amazon or Google adopting ARM chips is the sheer technical challenge of adapting the microprocessors to their needs. Companies like Apple have successfully used ARM designs in mobile devices, but their use in servers is still largely untested at the huge scales seen inside the Internet giants.

Login or Subscribe to follow the discussions happening here and real-time in our   Slack Community.
Read comments from top tech and industry leaders
Joe Lonsdale
Joe Lonsdale
Founding Partner, Eight
Chamath Palihapitiya
Chamath Palihapitiya
Founder & Managing Partner, SocialCapital
Tina Sharkey
Tina Sharkey
CEO, Brandless
Jonah Peretti
Jonah Peretti
CEO, Buzzfeed
Adam D'Angelo
Adam D'Angelo
CEO, Quora
Brit Morin
Brit Morin
Founder & CEO, Brit + CO
Dustin Moskovitz
Dustin Moskovitz
Co-Founder, Asana
Christina Miller
Christina Miller
President & General Manager, Turner
Max Levchin
Max Levchin
CEO, Affirm
Adam Mosseri
Adam Mosseri
Director of Product, Facebook
Alex Mather
Alex Mather
The Athletic
Martha Josephson
Martha Josephson
Partner, Egon Zehnder
James Murdoch
James Murdoch
Co-Chief Operating Officer, 21st Century Fox
Andrew Kortina
Andrew Kortina
Founder, Venmo
Ben Chestnut
Ben Chestnut
Co-Founder & CEO, Mailchimp
Ruchi Sanghvi
Ruchi Sanghvi
VP Operations, Dropbox
Facebook has given away for free the design of its so-called Honey Badger, a piece of hardware that can accommodate an ARM chip that slips into racks of hard drives to handle tasks like handling photo requests.