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I think it is merely an effort to not give Intel the monopoly over Google's datacenters. Because otherwise, Google will not have any negotiating power regarding prices of the chips.

Wouldn't it be cheaper to buy some AMD chips ? Are they that behind ?

I think power density and performance per watt are more important for Google than chip price. Power8 has greater density than Xeons with comparable Mips/W or Mflops/W.

I'm not talking about chip price but the cost of migrating and maintaining systems for separate architectures.

This. I think a side-benefit is that it lets them evaluate alternatives to x86 on a larger scale, and that if anything, the effort will lead to more portable code.

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