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Apple Alums Challenge AMD, Intel in Data Center With Phoenix Processor

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Former Apple chip designers Gerard Williams III, Manu Gulati and John Bruno, have launched a new start-up called Nuvia Inc that plans to take on Intel and AMD in the data center with a new server-focused processor codenamed  “Phoenix.” 

The company raised $53 million from Dell Technologies Capital and several other Silicon Valley investors, according to Reuters today. Nuvia plans to use the money to increase the number of employees from 60 to 100 by the end of the year.

Williams was Apple’s chief architect for all Apple central processors and systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) for nine years until he quit earlier this spring. Gulati also worked on Apple’s mobile SoCs for eight years, and Bruno worked on Apple’s platform architecture group. Gulati and Bruno also worked for Google for a short period before joining Nuvia as co-founders.

Williams told Reuters that the three plan to use their experience and knowledge building highly efficient mobile chips for Apple and apply it to building highly efficient server processors that will also have high performance and security.

In the past few years, we’ve also seen Qualcomm, Marvell, as well as Ampere, another startup formed by Intel’s former president, attempt to combat Intel and AMD in the data center market using mobile technology (in other words, the Arm instruction set architecture).

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategies, told Reuters that if anyone has a chance against the Intel and AMD incumbents it might be Nuvia, due to their star chip architects. The Nuvia founders played a major role in pushing Apple’s chips to gain significant performance improvements year after year, drastically outpacing other Arm chip competitors in the market, at least if we go by most benchmarks.

Scott Darling, president the Dell venture group, told Reuters that he can’t comment on whether or not Dell will end-up using Nuvia chips in its servers. But he has high hopes for Nuvia regardless:

“The silicon industry is relentless. It pounds forward,” he said. “You have to have a world-class team to do something disruptive enough that it will prevail despite the response of competitors. At Nuvia, we think we have found one.” 

Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.