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.