Bloomberg reports that Google is considering making its own server chips with the help of British firm ARM. The tech giant is currently Intel’s fifth biggest customer, and switching to its own ARM-based designs would give Google more control over the interaction between hardware and software in its systems. Apple also recently made the switch to building custom-made chips for its iPhone and iPad devices.
Any innovations that Google can make with its own chips could help improve the efficiency of the company’s massive data centers. It might also give Google a competitive edge over rivals such as Amazon and Facebook, if it can utilize hardware and architecture that it has exclusive access to.
Bloomberg’s anonymous source is “a person with knowledge of the matter” though at this stage it seems Google hasn’t definitively decided to take the plunge. Google spokeswoman Liz Markman told Bloomberg: “We are actively engaged in designing the world’s best infrastructure. This includes both hardware design (at all levels) and software design.” There was no outright confirmation or denial of the reports.
ARM-based chips from companies such as Qualcomm and Samsung have prevented Intel from expanding into the mobile and tablet space, and if Google decides to switch the processors used inside its servers it would be a significant blow to Intel’s revenues and market share. Intel shares have dipped on the strength of the rumors, while ARM shares have risen.
It’s likely that Google has at least looked into the possibility of working on its own processors, but whether it decides to go ahead with the switch or negotiates a lower price with Intel instead remains to be seen. “Since ARM chips for servers are cheaper, consume less power and require lower cooling compared with Intel chips, they would be very attractive for Google,” Charles Stanley analyst Tom Gidley-Kitchin said in a statement to Reuters.