back to article SPARCs fly as Oracle recharges Arm server processor designer Ampere with $40m

On Friday Oracle said it had invested $40m in Ampere Computing, a designer of 64-bit Arm server-class processors, run by Renée James, who coincidentally also holds a seat on Oracle's board of directors. In a financial filing, Oracle said it made its investment in April, amounting to less than 20 per cent of the company's …

  1. Nick Kew

    Isn't this just the long-term trend of a world increasingly dominated by ARM's ecosystem? Sparc has just gone the way of all the other challengers, to a niche that's hard to see ever again becoming profitable for a mainstream bigco like Oracle. Dammit, that dates right back to when Sun moved increasingly to x86 before Oracle acquired its interest in sparc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ARM revenue $1.5 Billion

      Intel revenue $70 Billion

      Dominated?

      1. H in The Hague Silver badge

        As far as I'm aware, ARM's revenues are from licensing their designs. To get a fair impression of the size of the ARM market you would have to add the revenues based on the production of their designs, by many different chip fabs. Additionally, some of Intel's revenues are from products other than CPUs.

        Intel's CPU business is still likely to be much bigger than the ARM ecosystem, however, it's good to see some competition which avoids a monoculture with all its disadvantages.

        1. mark l 2 Silver badge

          If you add together all the phones, tablets, routers, set top boxes, Smart TVs, single board computers etc with an ARM licensed chip inside, this would mean the number of ARM chips sold per year way outstrips the number of Intel chips sold. According to Wikipedia there were 15 billion ARM based chips sold in 2015, Intel don't release figures for the number for chips it sold per year but it is not going to be anywhere near the 15 billion mark.

          To work out which market is bigger you would need to add up the profit made by ARM plus the profit from sales of ARM based chips from all ARM licensees such as AMD, Broadcom, Huawei, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Mediatek, Rockchip etc. Apple are also an ARM licensee but don't sell chips to others so it would be hard to quantify what revenue they gain from being a ARM licensee.

          Then compare this to the profit Intel makes from selling X86 compatible CPUs over the same period.

          1. katrinab Silver badge

            ARM licences more chips every year than Intel has sold in its lifetime.

      2. Mage Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Intel Chips overpriced?

        1). Arm doesn't sell the chips. That's just royalty.

        2). Intel sells expensive chips, sometimes x500 price of an ARM.

        3). Volume wise many more ARM chips sold in a week than Intel sells all year.

        4). Intel mostly sells to Servers, PCs, Laptops. Only Servers are not dwindling sales.

        5). ARM chips are used in ANYTHING that needs a CPU. It's easier for ARM to break into Server market than Desktop/Laptop Windows market. MS can't sensibly switch to ARM for desktop Windows. Apple can more easily switch Mac from Intel to ARM, they've switched Mac CPUs several times before and Apple's main HW is now ARM based iThings, not the Mac range.

      3. HmmmYes

        Comparing Apples n Ford trucks.

        ARM licenses its design.

        The more suitable comparison would be Arm and all its licensee investments.

        Intel is toast.

      4. ToddRundgrensUtopia

        @AC

        You don't understand this do you?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          >You don't understand this do you?

          Ha ha. Thanks ToddRundgrensUtopia.

          I was just trying to point out to the OP that the idea the world is being DOMINATED by ARM is not quite true.

          If it were, then it would be reflected in much greater revenue. (Given that royalties make up a good chuck of their revenue. Not just licencing.)

  2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    We has SPARC machines at one point, much better than the (then) x86 options and they has a 64-bit mode & OS long before we had the memory budget to make much use of that capability. But along came AMD with the x86-64 extensions and as well as putting the willies up Intel (and sinking the Itanic) it also spelt much of the end for SPARC and other high-end CPU options (alas, Alpha had already been killed by HP who set sail on the Itanic).

    We found the Sun machines to be really good, but as time went on they became unaffordable and then when Oracle took over we would not touch them with a barge pole, less our nether-regions end up in Larry's license-fee extracting vice.

    Now of course ARM has seen a dominance in the world due to the mobile phone (thus no need for Windows compatibility) where decent performance and low power is king. We keep hearing of ARM servers, but not much actual sign of them coming to the mass market as yet. But ARM has some issues that may be an issue, so I hope that MIPS and RISC-V are a success to keep the competition on. The recent Trump vs. China spat will probably result in this as they have found out what in means, and where there is a political will there is a Huawei...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Compaq had already killed off Alpha before getting into bed with HP, or at least before making any public statements about the possibility of getting into bed HP. I spoke to several DEC engineers who'd been working on porting VMS to Itanium before the merger announcement, although interestingly the porting work was being done on systems which were basically HP N-CLass's but with the Merced CPU. This was never a released product, but the N-Class did have the Merced bus.

      The AMD 64bit x86 was the result of a number of Alpha engineers objecting to being sold to Intel and moving to AMD where, as you point out, their work finished off killing all the Unix Risc processors and eventually Itanium too.

      1. Porco Rosso

        end 2011 - Oracle Promises a terrific licking for 'Mister Blue'

        https://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/10/03/ellison_sparc_versus_power/

        or T5 & M5

        https://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/03/26/oracle_ellison_m5_t5_launch/

        I thought Sparc + Solaris servers main target was IBM System Z mainframes ecosystem...

        and not X86 and Arm cloud infrastructure...

    2. Scene it all

      I've got a low-end RISC-V processor on an "evaluation board" and I drool over the 5-core faster model that runs Linux, but I would like to see what the server-scale implementations look like. Alibaba has announced a higher-end 16-core chip but it is intended for IoT applications.

    3. Dave 13

      Play well with others..

      Larry has *never* been one to play well with others. This from a former Sun/Oracle employee who watched him strangle priceless IP because the profit margins weren't as high as his legacy SW only to realize (always too late) that he'd killed golden-egg-laying geese one after another. I've moved on but will never be an Oracle customer because of this short-sighted attitude. Now he's moving ARM-ward because he thinks it's a cheaper route to server CPUs. He doesn't like anything he cant sue, shakedown or destroy. That's Larry.. he reminds me of another American businessman who's recently got into politics.. must be something in the Yank water.

  3. kloczek the iOS6 user

    So .. does it mean that Oracle is thinking as well about porting Solaris to AARCH64?

    1. ToddRundgrensUtopia

      No need just use Linux. Oracle has a huge linux support business already

      1. Anonymous Crowbar

        Huge? Tbh i havent heard of anyone running their redhat rip off.

        1. ToddRundgrensUtopia

          Larry must be offering it then as he likes throwing money away!

  4. Paul

    Ampere forever tainted?

    sad, I thought Ampere would be an interesting path to Arm based servers. But now they're tainted by Oracle.

    1. P. Lee

      Re: Ampere forever tainted?

      Anyone with cloud ambitions should be keeping an eye on non-x86.

      With the us/China spat it will be interesting to see if mips gets a boost. I seem to think crossbeam were using them years ago in nics running quad 40g phy interfaces.

      Performance per watt may be second fiddle to "can I reliably source the chips?"

    2. ToddRundgrensUtopia

      Re: Ampere forever tainted?

      Silly statement

  5. mj.jam

    Nice work if you can get it

    So whilst running one company, she gets two other companies whose boards she sits on to invest in it.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Nice work if you can get it

      This is hardly unusual in the industry, though it does depend a bit on whether they're executive or non-executive board members.

  6. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    My Bad

    When I first read the headline I assumed that Oracle was suing an ARM server designer for $40 mill.....Who knew they actually invested in more than lawyers nowadays

  7. ToddRundgrensUtopia

    PCIe fabric

    Ampere is an interesting firm, as well as using ARM based CPUs they are using PCIe as a fabric/interconnect too. Much lower latency than Ethernet or Infiniband.

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