Why are so many companies suddenly jumping into the datacenter accelerator game? Major chip companies such as, and as well as startups such as Nervana (being acquired by Intel), Wave Computing, GraphCore, KnuPath and others are all vying for a piece of a rapidly growing market. That market consists primarily of just seven customers, the world's largest datacenters:,,,,, and Tencent. These companies are increasingly turning to technologies that can run specific algorithms at least 10 times faster in order to meet the demand for applications such as machine learning, ultra-high-definition video streaming and complex data analytics. While GPUs (Graphics Processing Units) from NVIDIA have been leading much of this trend, Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) hope to now contend to become a major player.
Microsoft is working on its own Arm processor designs for its datacenter servers, according to a Bloomberg report on December 18. Bloomberg also says Microsoft is exploring using another chip that would power some Surface PCs, the report adds. While some are painting this as Microsoft responding to Apple's recent decision to field its own Arm-based M1 processor, Microsoft and Qualcomm already had partnered since 2019 on Microsoft's Arm chip that is inside the original Surface Pro X. The Pro X 2 uses the SQ2 chip, which is a variant of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8cx chip without 5G. The part to me that's more interesting is Microsoft using Arm in servers. Microsoft already had been working with Qualcomm and Caviium -- along with Intel and AMD on Project Olympus, Microsoft's next-generation cloud-hardware design it provided to the Open Comput Project.
Microsoft is making available the release-to-manufacturing bits of Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 today, October 12. Microsoft officials said at the company's recent Ignite conference that customers should be able to get the final Windows Server 2016 bits by mid-October. During Ignite, Microsoft released the Evaluation version of Windows Server 2016, but not the final version. At Ignite, officials also announced all Windows Server 2016 customers will get the commercially available Docker engine for no additional cost. As of today, Microsoft is releasing the RTM version of its latest Server release to MSDN, as an Azure image and via its Volume Licensing Service Center. Windows Server 2016 Datacenter is one of a handful of Windows Server 2016 editions Microsoft is releasing this year.
A year ago, Microsoft reported that server component shortages had limited how much it could invest in its datacenter business. It looks like those limitations are over, as company officials are predicting that Microsoft will be building 50 to 100 new datacenters each year for the foreseeable future. Microsoft disclosed its latest cloud build-out predictions as part of its launch of a new, immersive datacenter tour experience on April 20. Microsoft currently operates more than 200 datacenters. Its currently operating and planned datacenters are located in 34 countries worldwide, networked with more than 165,000 miles of subsea cable, officials said.
Microsoft has dropped a 40-foot long data-center pod onto the seafloor off the coast from the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, north of Scotland. That's a fairly remote location, but Microsoft's thinking behind phase two of its data-center-in-the-sea research, Project Natick, is to bring its cloud servers closer to where people live. Since half the world's population lives within 120 miles of the coast, it thinks offshore data centers could be an efficient, low-latency way of delivering AI applications and gaming content to end users. Microsoft dropped a slightly smaller 30-foot Natick pod off the coast of California in 2016 to test whether it could run Azure services from the seabed. Microsoft designed the pod to operate without maintenance for up to five years -- about the time it would take before the servers inside would be retired anyway.