Apple has lent a hand by posting a job posting that reveals some details of the “next-generation” storage and server equipment it’s building in its data centers.
The company posted a cheery recruitment announcement seeking to hire an “optimistic and hardworking hardware validation engineer to develop, implement, and complete hardware validation plans for Apple’s next-generation Hyperscale and Storage Server platforms!” “
The message says the server hardware is powered by x86 processors, the very architecture Apple has shunned for its PCs, which are moving to an internal Arm-compatible architecture.
“We are looking for an engineer who has validated their skills in testing Intel and/or AMD based server and storage systems,” the ad reads.
As Arm servers emerge as an alternative, x86 chips generated more than 90% of server revenue in the second half of 2021, according to IDC.
Apple’s “next generation” server hardware is pointing to upgrades in its data centers. Meta is rolling out new servers based on AMD chips in data centers to power its future metaverse, and some cloud providers are upgrading their infrastructure to support cloud gaming and 5G applications. Amazon and Google, meanwhile, said they were withholding at least some core equipment upgrades for a year to save billions of dollars.
Apple may be working with AMD and/or Intel to create custom x86 server processors that would require specialized testing
It’s hard to pinpoint a particular application stack for which Apple’s next-generation servers would be intended, said Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at Tirias Research.
“I think it’s possible that Apple is working with AMD and/or Intel to create custom x86 server processors that would require specialist testing,” he added.
It’s worth noting that various Apple chip designers quit to form Nuvia after they apparently asked to create a local server processor for giant iCloud and were shot down by Steve Jobs and other executives. Now Nuvia, which wanted to produce Arm-based data center processors, is owned by Qualcomm, which wants to use the plans for personal devices.
Apple is providing more on-device processing capabilities for the likes of Siri – taking advantage of local processing power without having to move everything to and from a remote server – although we can imagine that hardware upgrades from the center of data will be needed to provide backend services for markets Apple may intend to enter, such as AR/VR and self-driving cars.
Incidentally, iGiant posted a job posting last month for a radar specialist with experience in in-vehicle controllers and Nvidia GPUs, which screams autonomous vehicles to us.
Will Apple make its next-gen x86 servers available to customers? Unlikely, but it could be made available through cloud service providers. Apple recently made its M1 Mac Mini with the ARM-powered M1 chip available on Amazon’s cloud service.
Knowledge of Linux is a requirement in the Server Specialist position. Apple’s current data center hardware configuration remains a mystery; although it has used Unix-based IBM AIX and Sun Solaris servers in the past, it is assumed that Linux is widely used in its fleet.
Apple’s last legitimate server product, the x86-based Xserve, has been discontinued [PDF] in 2011 after the company abandoned its corporate focus and transformed into a consumer company with the iPad and iPhone. Apple at the time was urging consumers to upgrade to the Mac Pro, which had an Intel Xeon processor, or the Mac Mini, which had an Intel Core part. The systems could be used with Apple’s MacOS X Snow Leopard server operating system. ®