AMD reveals details of its first ARM-based server chip

AMD reveals details of its first ARM-based server chip

Summary: AMD unveils the specs for its first range of ARM-based processors aimed at the server market.

TOPICS: Hardware

AMD has revealed the specs of its first ARM-based chip aimed at the microserver market.

Small, low-power ARM-based processors are commonly found in mobile phones and tablets. But there's increasing interest in using these energy efficient, less-powerful chips inside servers. That demand is being fuelled by the growth in computationally-light workloads that still need to be carried out on a large scale, such as serving static elements on popular websites.

These tasks, sometimes dubbed 'hyperscale' workloads, can be more efficiently carried out using clusters of hundreds or thousands of relatively wimpy processors, rather than a smaller number of more powerful chips.

AMD's Opteron A1100 family of processors, codenamed Seattle, is based on the ARM v8 architecture, which introduces support for features considered critical by business. Not only is v8 the first ARM architecture to support 64-bit cores, it also brings additional enterprise-class features, such as error-correcting code (ECC) memory.

The series of 28nm processors, which are due to be available in volume at the end of this year, will have up to eight ARM Cortex-A57 cores with up to 4MB of shared L2 cache (1MB cache shared between each pair of cores).

The processor will support up to 128GB of ECC memory. The eight-core Seattle chip has two memory channels, which support up to two memory sticks per channel running at a top speed of 1.87 GHz. The memory controllers support either DDR3 or DDR4 memory.

It is served by up to eight Sata 3 ports, capable of transmitting data at 6 Gbps, two 10GBASE-KR Ethernet ports and eight lanes for PCI Express Gen 3. It also has a dedicated 1GbE system management port (RGMII).

A system control processor, an ARM Cortex A5-based chip, is used to control power, configure the system, initiate booting, and act as a service processor for system management functions.

A cryptographic co-processor acts as a dedicated accelerator for encryption and decryption, as well as compression and decompression algorithms.

Sean White, an engineer at AMD was also quoted at the Hot Chip conference in Cupertino as saying the company would consider customising the processor to meet specific industry needs. Intel has also recently expanded the options for large customers who want custom silicon.

This year several ARM-based system-on-a-chip (SoC) processors are planned to launch, designed to carry out a range of datacentre tasks — from handling server workloads, to running storage arrays and virtualised network functions.

To meet these needs, ARM-based SoCs are in the works from various companies, including Applied Micro, Broadcom, Cavium and Texas Instruments.

Read more on AMD

Topic: Hardware


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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  • Sounds cool

    But will ARM64 servers really make an impact on the market?
    • There is a really good chance.

      ARM has very good performance per watt. So I could see large datacenters trying to cut power. It is an attractive option. The OS and software (LAMP) is already available. BTW, I am not an ARM fanboi or anything. I like Intel and Windows but let's face it this is an attractive option.
      • I don't think it's enough

        I don't think it's enough to motivate people into going back to a multi-architecture environment after finally getting unification on Intel based virtualization. Everyone knows Intel is putting a lot of development into closing the power gap so any cost advantage would be short lived and not worth the conversion cost.
        Buster Friendly
        • Sammy

          The key to this will be Samsung. Right now they're having so much fun selling the output of their ARM fabs in their own mobile devices that they've put off entering the server market. Their attitude seems to be, "Let some small players take the pioneer arrows. If they ever succeed in putting a dent in Intel, we'll swoop in and mow 'em down."

          Competing against Intel isn't just about chip architecture. It's about fab technology, where Intel (a) excels, and (b) operates on a huge scale thanks to their desktop PC hegemony. The only really big ARM users (where "really big" means "in a league with Intel") are Apple and Samsung, who together pretty much own mobile computing. Apple could surprise me, but I don't see them entering the commodity ARM chip business. Samsung will, it's only a matter of when. Whatever their server design is, it will be something they can make on the same fab line where they're pouring out a billion chips for tablets and phones. If you can't do that, you can't get in the ring with Intel.

          There's a lot going on here. Sooner or later I expect some desperate also-ran in the tablet business to break the code on how to sell Android in the laptop and desktop arenas. A growing number of people are entering adulthood expecting to see Android on everything. Windows? What's that? They don't know and they don't care. If Intel hasn't figured out how to get into some phones and tablets by then, they'll be in serious pain.
          Robert Hahn
    • With LAMP already available for ARM64

      and Microsoft's willingness to put Windows on ARM (you know they'll do it for Server, too), I'm all but certain that ARM is going to become competitive.