Ampere launches Altra, takes aim at AMD, Intel in cloud data centers

The Arm-based Altra is the latest entry into the hyperscale computing processor market.

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Ampere has started shipping its Altra processor, an 80-core Arm server chip for cloud computing and hyperscale data centers.

The company's launch highlights how Arm-based processors are making their way into data centers and cloud computing. Amazon Web Services has developed its own Arm processor called Graviton and rivals such as Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure also have efforts.

If successful, Ampere is hoping that it can break into the cloud market alongside Intel Xeon and AMD Epyc instances. Ampere said it can deliver 41% higher performance /total cost of ownership than AMD Epyc 7702 and 63% higher performance/TCO against Intel Xeon Gold 6238R.

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Altra has two platforms. Mt. Jade, an Ampere Altra 2 socket server, and Mt. Snow, a 1-socket version. Ampere, led by former Intel executive Renee James, is betting that Altra can win over customers with the following features.

  • Scalability to 80 single-threaded cores up to 210W for hyperscale data centers.
  • 7nm process technology.
  • Two 128-bit SIMD units.
  • AI inference acceleration using int8 and fp16 instructions.
  • Cryptographic extensions.
  • Arm v8.2+, SBSA Level 4.
  • Single and dual socket platforms.
  • Open architecture for integration with other components.
  • A memory subsystem with up to 4TB of memory per socket, DRAM throttling and support for DDR4 RAS.
  • Security isolation.
  • An annual cadence.
  • And an ability to offer high performance to address workloads such as artificial intelligence, databases, edge computing and cloud native apps.

James noted that Ampere, founded two years ago, is aiming to "invent the future of the server CPU business" and bring innovation to customers quickly. James also added that data centers won't be able to address power challenges by simply scaling up existing processors.

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The bet by Ampere is that the computing has shifted to containers and microservices, edge computing, AI and machine learning and needs more power efficient processors. Power efficiency is becoming critical to meet sustainability goals. 

Altra will be in production in mid-2020.