AMD has committed to develop a line of Opteron server chips based on the 64-bit ARM processor architecture.
The company said that the chips would compliment its existing line of x86 Opteron processors and could arrive by 2014. AMD said that it plans to pair the ARM architecture with its recently-acquired SeaMicro FreedomFabric platform to connect and scale the chips in cluster deployments.
The processors would aim to provide cloud service providers and web application vendors with a low-power, massively scalable processor to power large-scale datacentres and server farms.
AMD president and chief executive Rory Read described the ARM project as part of an "ambidextrous" strategy from the company which would seek to fill a small but growing niche in the server space.
The company estimates that in the coming years an ARM processor line could account for more than one tenth of the total server space.
"There is no doubt that cloud changes everything," Read told reporters at a conference in San Francisco.
The market for low-power processors has heated up in recent years as companies have deployed specialised servers en-masse to support web applications. AMD rival Intel has opted to stay with the x86 architecture to power its Atom processors.
Charles King, principal analyst with research firm Pund-IT, told V3 that AMD's ambitious projections for the ARM processor market over the next several years are not far off from those of third-party analysts.
"That seems reasonable," he said, "especially if companies like Facebook and Amazon continue to be as optimistic and bullish on ARM as they appear to be."
While there will likely be a strong market for the chips, King said that the battle between x86 and ARM could in part be decided by developers.
"I think Intel has made a very compelling argument to many of its OEM and ISV partners that the notion of embracing a highly efficient x86 architecture like Atom would be less problematic than porting to ARM," the analyst noted.
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