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Arm Partners on Marvell's Server Chip Development

Marvell Technology is expanding its partnership with Arm to further develop Marvell’s ThunderX server chips for cloud infrastructure and data centers, an Arm-based alternative to x86-based products from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices. As part of the deal, Arm agreed last week to invest a “substantial” sum in Marvell’s research and development for at least the next three years.

Both companies have closely collaborated over the last decade on chips targeting data centers and the network edge. Marvell claims its latest line of server processors based on the Armv8-A architecture, ThunderX2, offers higher performance, lower power and reduced total cost of ownership compared existing x86-based chips. Marvell acquired ThunderX in 2018 as part of its $6 billion deal to buy Cavium.

The deal comes as SoftBank-owned Arm increases its investment in chip designs dedicated to data centers. The company is trying to erode Intel’s dominance in server chips by lowering the bar for Marvell and other suppliers, including startup Ampere Computing, to build Arm-based alternatives. Chips based on the Arm architecture, which nearly every smartphone in the world uses, have had a long drought in data centers.

Marvell is trying to undercut Intel’s Xeon chips by delivering better performance per watt per dollar, curbing operating costs for cloud computing vendors and other big corporations. The Santa Clara, California-based company is also tapping into Arm’s increasing investment in servers and other internet infrastructure. Arm has also backed the development of Ampere’s server chips based on Applied Micro's X-Gene CPU.

“Arm’s investment in Marvell’s server processor technology is a testament to the strength of our development team,” Raghib Hussain, who leads Marvell’s networking and processor group, said. He added that the deal advances ambitions to deliver “server processor solutions to our cloud and high performance compute customers, leveraging Arm’s architecture, as together we take cloud-scale computing to the next level.”

Rene Haas, president of Arm’s intellectual property products group, said the new deal positions Marvell “to develop and ramp some of the most advanced server processor technology in the world.”

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