Qualcomm’s Server Team Loses VP of Technology, Centriq Future Unknown
Normally we don’t particularly comment on these sorts of transitions at big companies unless they are C-level (CEO, CTO), however the narrative surrounding Qualcomm’s Centriq product line is still one that is perceived to be in flux. Qualcomm never commented on the rumors about its plans to find a buyer for Centriq, despite Axios and Bloomberg both reporting on them, and as a result never confirmed or denied the proposition: ultimately leading others to speculate. Followed by Anand Chandrasekhar’s swift exit, again without public comment about reasons or replacement, and now another senior figure exiting the scene, brings more questions to the table than it answers.
The team behind Qualcomm Datacenter Technologies server platform, Qualcomm’s Centriq, has been in the news this past year as one of the key players in bring Arm architecture cores to the server and enterprise market. So far the time line looks like this:
- November 2014: Announced Plans to Enter Server Market
- December 2016: First 48-Core Demo and Sampling
- August 2017: Falkor Microarchitecture Detailed (Hot Chips)
- November 8th 2017: Cloudflare publishes integration testing
- November 10th 2017: Official Launch (for revenue) and Pricing
- May 8th 2018: Bloomberg Reports QCT may abandon Centriq
- May 13th 2018: Anand Chandrasekhar, President of QCT, Leaves
- June 14th 2018: QCT Downsizing, 280 Jobs Cut
In 2017, Qualcomm announced the Centriq 2400 family of processors, built on Arm architecture cores at 10nm, for the enterprise and server market. This was meant to be the big break for Arm cores in the server market by a massive player that has the engineering staff and infrastructure to build a sizable customer base. The biggest version of the design implemented 48 of Qualcomm’s Falkor Arm v8 cores, paired with 60 MB of L3 cache, six channels of DDR4, running at a 2.2 GHz base frequency for 120W TDP and a price just shy of $2000: it was set to compete aggressively in the cloud server markets in performance per watt, overall performance, and cost. To date, Cloudflare has made the biggest noise about transitioning its DDoS protection platform from x86 to Centriq.
Qualcomm Centriq 'Amberwing' Development Platform, from Cloudflare
|Qualcomm Centriq 2400 Series|
|AnandTech.com||Centriq 2460||Centriq 2452||Centriq 2434|
|Base Frequency||2.2 GHz||2.2 GHz||2.3 GHz|
|Turbo Frequency||2.6 GHz||2.6 GHz||2.5 GHz|
|L3 Cache||60.0 MB||57.5 MB||50 MB|
|PCIe||32 PCIe 3.0|
|TDP||0 W||0 W||110 W|
However since the announcement, availability from the major server providers has been next to nil.
Back in May this year, almost at the same time as reports suggesting that Qualcomm was looking to offload (sell/close) the server processor division, Anand Chandrasekhar left the company without much of a warning, at least publically, and aside from a personal tweet about leaving Qualcomm, no official note was given as to Anand’s replacement. The reports regarding the company offloading the server division were never confirmed, and behind the scenes several trusted sources reached out to AnandTech to say that this wasn’t really the case. Qualcomm has kept mum on the issue.
Fast forward to today, and another surprise hit our screens. One of the key members of the Falkor team, Dr. Dileep Bhandarkar, VP of Technology at QCT, seems to have left the company. Dileep was very much a key person for Falkor, purposefully spending time to track us down at Hot Chips after we published our detailed microarchitecture analysis and introduce us to the engineers, as well as chairing the Server Processor round of talks at the same event. The reasons for Dileep’s transition out of QCT are unknown. His departure was discovered due to his speaker biography for SemiCon West 2018 stating ‘formerly Qualcomm’.
Dr. Bhandarkar’s role is an important one here: he was a Director of Advanced Architecture at Intel for 12 years until 2007 (being a lead spokesperson for Intel’s server platform technologies), is an IEEE Life Fellow, has spent almost six years at Microsoft driving innovation and standards for its datacenters, and then a similar amount of time at Qualcomm working on technology strategy and business development, developing (among other things) machine learning accelerators currently in use at a major cloud provider. It would appear that rather than joining another industry behemoth, he is starting his own DNN based business.
So normally we don’t particularly comment on these sorts of transitions at big companies unless they are C-level (CEO, CTO), however the narrative surrounding Qualcomm’s Centriq product line is still one that is perceived to be in flux. Qualcomm never commented on the rumors about its plans for Centriq, despite Axios and Bloomberg both reporting on them, and as a result neither confirmed nor denied the proposition officially, ultimately leading others to speculate. Followed by Anand Chandrasekhar’s swift exit, again without public comment about reasons or replacement, and now another senior figure exiting the scene, brings more questions to the table than it answers.
Whatever Qualcomm’s plans for Centriq have been, they seem to have stalled. It would appear that the product still does not seem to be available on the open market from the standard server manufacturers, and despite lots of talk citing the products wins over Xeon chips, nothing new has been said for quite a while. These OEMs are instead pushing Cavium’s ThunderX2 designs, which seem to have been gaining traction. Despite discussing with the Centriq team about being sampled for review in Q4 last year, that never materialized. Bloomberg also reported (via notices filed at a state level) a few weeks back that the company was cutting its datacenter unit in half, with up to 280 jobs on the line. It is possible that Dr. Bhandarkar's departure may have been one of these. The same report states that Qualcomm will continue its joint ventures in China, and rather than closing the unit will ‘persevere with a revised strategy’.
“Qualcomm remains committed to data-center opportunities and is not divesting the assets,” Amon said to Bloomberg. “We are reducing our investments in the data-center business but remain committed to our China JV and to refocusing our R&D efforts for upcoming compute opportunities.”
Source: SemiCon West