Computer Electronics

ARM Server Chips Start to Roll

31 July 2014

Applied Micro is starting to make money on 64-bit ARM processors for server applications and Advanced Micro Devices is offering a development board for its Opteron A1100.

The movement towards 64-bit ARM for servers of various types is picking up momentum as Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Applied Micro Circuit Corp. both announced shipments

While announcing his company's financial results for its first fiscal quarter Applied Micro CEO Paramesh Gopi, said: "We are very pleased to report that we have shipped initial production X-Gene units. Purchase orders continue to grow and backlog is building. The creation of the ARM 64-bit based server category is underway."

The X-Gene implementation of the ARMv8 instruction set architecture is based on a instruction set license and is intended for micro-server applications in a modest 40-nm manufacturing process and includes four pairs of cores running at up to 3.0GHz clock frequency. The chip operates at 0.9V and consumes 4.5W, which attests to the importance of energy efficiency in data center and server applications.

However, the initial X-Gene may serve as a calling card as X-Gene 2, a 28nm shrink and optimization of the octo-core architecture, is expected to sample soon offering a 15 to 20 percent improvement in performance. Meanwhile it is reported that Applied's design team is working on X-Gene 3, with more cores and aimed at 16nm FinFET manufacturing process.

Seattle dev boards

Meanwhile AMD has announced the immediate availability of the Opteron A1100 series developer kit. Each board is priced at $2,999 but will include AMD's first 64-bit ARM-based processoe, codenamed "Seattle."

AMD claims it is the first company to offer a server platform based on the Cortex-A57 and its chip is aimed at energy efficiency in datacenters.

"The journey toward a more efficient infrastructure for large-scale datacenters is taking a major step forward today with broader availability of our AMD Opteron A1100-Series development kit," said Suresh Gopalakrishnan, general manager of the server business unit at AMD. "After successfully sampling to major ecosystem partners such as firmware, OS, and tools providers, we are taking the next step in what will be a collaborative effort across the industry to reimagine the datacenter based on the open business model of ARM innovation."

The AMD Opteron A1100, which is believed to be implemented in 28nm CMOS, contains either 4 or 8 Cortex-A57 cores, up to 4Mbytes of shared L2 cache memory and up to 8Mbytes of shared L3 cache. The processor's channels to off-chip memory are configurable dual DDR3 or DDR4 channels with error correction that operate at up to 1.866 gigatransfers per second. The chip also has 8 lanes of PCI Express I/O, 8 serial ATA ports and two 10-Gbit/s Ethernet ports. Cryptographic and datacompresson coprocessors are included in the chip along with ARM TrustZone technology to support secure processing activities.

The development kit includes only a quad-core A1100

A third player in 64-bit ARM chips for servers is Cavium Inc. (San Jose, Calif.), which has launched its ThunderX CN88XX processor, also based on an architectural license, allowing the firm to squeeze 48 cores operating at up to 2.5-GHz on to a slice of 28nm silicon. However that is not expected to be available for general sampling until 4Q14.

Related links and articles:

IHS Technology Semiconductor & Components Page

News articles:

Processors Focus on Data Center at ISSCC

AMD Launches 'Seattle' 64-bit ARM Server Processor

Cavium Goes 48-core With ARM Server SoC

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