AMD unveils first ARM-based server chip, developer kit

AMD unveils first ARM-based server chip, developer kit

Summary: The AMD Opteron A1100 series server chip, which features 28-nanometer process technology, will be sampling in the next few weeks.


AMD made some noise Tuesday at Open Compute Summit V by unveiling its first ARM-based server chip using 28-nanometer processing technology.

During a keynote address, Andrew Feldman, corporate vice president and general manager of AMD's server business unit, said the AMD Opteron A1100 series, codenamed "Seattle," not only signals the chipmaker's commitment to becoming the "leader in ARM CPUs for servers" but the dawn of new era for data management.

"This is not a one-generation process," he said. "There will be generation after generation after generation and each will improve and be more closely tied to the software and hardware enclosure it lives in."

The AMD Opteron A1100 series processor supports four or eight CPU cores based on ARM's 64-bit Cortex-A57. The developer kit includes a Micro-ATX motherboard, the A1100 processor, four registered DIMM slots for up to 128GB of DDR3 DRAM, PCI Express connectors configurable as a single x8 or dual x4 ports and eight SATA ports.

The company also announced it will contribute to the Open Compute Project, an open-source hardware effort working to reduce datacenter costs and improve efficiencies, a new AMD Open CS 1.0 Common Slot design based on the AMD Opteron A-series processor that's compliant with the new Common Slot specification for partners integrators to build with immediately.

Company officials said the Opteron A-series development platform will be supported by a number of tools and applications including a standard UEFI boot and Linux environment based on the Fedora project.

"We are racing ahead in the ARM community," Feldman said. "We've passed youth and moved to the gangly adolescent phase for software" in the ARM ecosystem.

He added that ARM CPUs will play a "monstrous role" in tomorrow's datacenters, perhaps commanding a quarter of the server market by 2019.

"In the history of compute, smaller lower-priced CPUs have always won," he said.

Topics: ARM, Data Centers, Open Source, Servers


Larry Barrett is a freelance journalist and blogger who has covered the information technology and business sectors for more than 15 years.

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  • It's incredible!

    AMD has finally jumped across to the ARM processor.

    It's incredible to think that the low-energy-using ARM processor will be powering a quarter of all servers within 5 years.

    If its momentum is that strong, then ARM will power most servers within the decade. AMD had no choice but to join the ARM movement.
    • Careful with the words, "will be"; more correct would be "may be",

      because, nobody can tell what the future holds, and what AMD is doing, is just hoping that their entry into ARM servers becomes a success. As of yet, there is no indication that that will be the case; it could be the case, but as of today, there is more uncertainty that reality.

      Besides, Intel is not going away, and the Intel-based servers aren't going away, and they are still the more powerful technology, and ARM is still trying to catch up.
      • Not necessarily...

        Intel has severe complexity problems with the x86 instruction set.

        Now implementing an ARM 64 bit system would be a different situation entirely. Right now, Intel has the experience at high speed processing. Moving that to ARM could easily release a core running 5-6 times faster than the fastest x86 based core.

        But that would kill their cash cow - Windows based PCs...

        It could also kill Microsoft.

        So I don't think their contracts would allow that...

        Thus giving AMD another chance to surpass them in processing capability again.

        Linux distributions (all the major ones) have already been ported to ARM, so they are ready, able, and available to fill the void left by Microsoft.

        And before you claim Windows RT can fill in... It runs on only ONE ARM architecture... Linux runs on everything from v7 on.
        • Windows on ARM

          Windows has been pretty platform agnostic. I'm sure it wouldn't be a huge task to get it running on an eight core ARMv8.

          Now, Windows apps and drivers on the other hand ...
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  • Reduced power demand - reduced cooling = even more reduced power

    Using low (electrical) power processors such as ARM has 2 benefits:
    1) reduced power costs
    2) reduced cooling which further reduces power costs.
    So "Less power to your processors", and more power to you ARM, AMD!

    Re Windows RT only on the ARM chip in the Surface RT etc., it wouldn't take a major rewrite to get Windows RT to run on a range of ARM processors. Also don't forget Office RT, and now that Microsoft has the experience of compiling for ARM processors, it shouldn't be difficult for all their future software projects to be written with dual compile options in mind. I can see a future where Windows becomes a major OS on ARM based servers, desktops and laptops.