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ARM’s smartphone processors could soon challenge Intel in the mainframe market: Research

May 30, 2013

Smartphone and tablet processors based on designs from UK-based chip design firm ARM are set to replace PC processors (including IBM’s PowerPC chips and Intel’s x86 processors) in some of the world’s largest supercomputers, according to new research from the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre.

The startling conclusion was reached in a report titled Are mobile processors ready for HPC? by researchers Nikola Rajovic, Pall Carpenter, Isaac Gelado, Nikola Puzovic and Alex Ramirez.

The research notes that PC microprocessors killed Vector processors in the mainframe market during the early 1990s, when 10 microprocessors were required to replace one Vector processor.

“Microprocessors killed the Vector supercomputers [in the early 1990s],” the authors note.

“They were not faster but they were significantly cheaper and greener.”

Noting the performance of ARM-based mobile processors is catching up to the performance offered by desktop PC processors, the authors predict their low power consumption will make them a viable alternative to microprocessors.

“History may be about to repeat itself,” the authors note.

“Mobile processors are not faster, but they are significantly cheaper.”