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Arm Server Update, Spring/Summer 2021

As usual, we are overdue for an update on all things Arm Servers! Today’s announcement of the Arm v9 specification is a great time to review the state of Arm Servers, and what has changed since our last update.

First, let’s review our last update. Marvell canceled the ThunderX3 product, Ampere had announced the Altra but it wasn’t shipping, AWS Graviton was available, and Nuvia was designing a processor.

Fast forward to today, and the Ampere Altra’s are now becoming available, with limited stock via the Works on Arm program at Equinix Metal, and some designs shown off by Avantek, a channel supplier. Mt. Snow and Mt. Jade, as they are known, are also formally designated as “ServerReady” parts, passing standards compliance tests.

Nuvia, the startup that was designing a new Arm Server SoC from the ground up, was purchased by Qualcomm, in an apparent re-entry into the Arm Server market (or for use in Windows on Arm laptops?). Don’t forget, they previously had an Arm Server part, the Centriq, though they scrapped it a few years ago. So, it now remains to be seen if Nuvia will launch a server-grade SoC, or pivot to a smaller target-device.

The other emerging trend to cover is the role of Arm in the Edge Server ecosystem, where the trend of pushing small servers out of the datacenter and closer to customers and users is rapidly gaining momentum. In this scenario, non-traditional, smaller devices take on the role of a server, and the energy efficiency, small form-factor, and varied capabilities of Arm-powered single board computers are taking on workloads previously handled by typical 1U and 2U rackmount servers in a datacenter. But, small devices like the Nvidia Jetson AGX, RaspberryPi Compute Module 4, and NXP Freeway boxes are able to perform Edge AI, data caching, or local workloads, and only send what is necessary up to the cloud. This trend has been accelerating over the past 12 – 18 months, so, we may see some more niche devices or SoC’s start to fill this market.

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Arm Server Update, Fall 2020

The announcement yesterday of the cancelation of Marvel’s ThunderX3 Arm Server processor was a reminder that we were overdue for an Arm Server update!  So, continuing on in our regular series, here is the latest news in the Arm Server ecosystem.

As mentioned, unfortunately it appears at this time that Marvell has canceled the ThunderX3 Arm Server processor that was shown earlier this year, and would have been the successor to the ThunderX and ThunderX2 parts released previously.  The current rumors indicate that perhaps some specialized version of the SoC may survive and be used for an exclusive contract with a hyperscaler, but that means “regular” customers will not be able to acquire the part.  And with no general purpose, general availability part, the ThunderX3 will effectively be unavailable. 

That leaves AWS providing the Graviton processor in the EC2 cloud server option, or Ampere with their current generation eMag Arm Server, and forthcoming Ampere Altra SoC as the only server-class Arm processors left (for now).  The Ampere Altra is brand new, and available from our friends at Packet in an Early Access Program, but no specific General Availability date has been mentioned quite yet.  This processor offers 80-cores or 128-cores, and is based on Arm Neoverse N1 cores. 

There is another processor on the horizon though from Nuvia, a startup formed late last year who is designing an Arm-based server class SoC.  Nuvia has said it will take several years to bring their processor to market, which is a typical timeframe for an all-new custom processor design.  So in the meantime, only Amazon and Ampere are left in the market.

The NXP desktop-class LS2160 as found in the SolidRun Honeycomb could also be considered for some workloads, but it is a 16-core part based on A72 cores.

There is one other Arm Server that exists, but unfortunately it’s not able to be acquired outside of China:  the Huawei TaiShan 2280 based on the HiSilicon Kunpeng 920.  This is a datacenter part that is likely used by the large cloud providers in China, but seems difficult (or impossible) to obtain otherwise.  It is a dual processor server, with 64-cores in each processor, thus totaling 128 cores per server.

As usual, the Arm Server ecosystem moves quickly, and we look forward to seeing what’s new and exciting in our next update!

 

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ARM Server Update, Summer 2018

Continuing our quarterly ARM Server update series, it is now Summer 2018 so it is time to review the ARM Server news and ecosystem updates from the past few months!  This blog series only covers the ARM Server highlights, but for more in-depth ARM Server news be sure to check out the Works on Arm Newsletter, delivered every Friday by Ed Vielmetti!

Looking at our recent blog posts, the most important headline seems to be the rumored exit from the business by Qualcomm.  Although, at the moment, this has not been confirmed, if true it would be a major setback for ARM Servers in the datacenter.  The Qualcomm Centriq had been shown to be very effective by CloudFlare for their distributed caching workload, and had been shown by Microsoft to be running a portion of the Azure workload as well.

However, just as Qualcomm is rumored to be exiting, Cavium has released the new ThunderX2 to general availability, and several new designs have now been shown and are listed for sale.  The ThunderX2 processor is a 32-core design that can directly compete with Xeons, and provides all of the platform features that a hyperscaler would expect.

Finally, in software news, Ubuntu has released it’s latest 18.04 Bionic Beaver release, which is an LTS version, thus offering 5 years of support.  As in the past, there is an ARM64 version of Ubuntu, which should technically work on any UEFI standard ARM Server.  Examples include Ampere X-Gene servers, Cavium ThunderX servers, Qualcomm, Huawei, HP Moonshot, and AMD Seattle servers.

As always, make sure to check back for more ARM Server and Datacenter industry news, or follow us on Twitter for daily updates on all things ARM, IoT, single board computers, edge computing, and more!

 

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Report: Qualcomm Centriq TCO beats Intel

Tirias Research recently released a new Report detailing the Qualcomm Centriq Total Cost of Ownership versus an Intel Xeon x86 platform on a common workload, and the Qualcomm came out far ahead.  The full article is located here:  https://www.forbes.com/sites/tiriasresearch/2018/02/20/qdt-improved-server-tco/#3bbff2bc4675  The relevant piece is this:

Our TCO analysis demonstrated that using only one Qualcomm Centriq 2452 SoC per server chassis, a 12kW rack full of 36 46-core SoCs should show slightly better performance than a rack full of Intel Xeon Silver 4110 dual-socket server chassis, at only 51% of the power consumption. That’s similar performance with about half the power consumption.

 

Using two Qualcomm Centriq 2452 SoCs per server chassis in a 12kW rack should yield a little over double the performance of the dual-socket Intel Xeon Silver 4110 servers at 88% of the power consumption. A key factor is that only 35 of the Intel Xeon Silver 4110 systems can fit within the 12kW rack power budget. In this scenario, Qualcomm Centriq 2400 offers double the performance with less power consumption.

So, a single socket Centriq is essentially using half as much power for the exact same performance and workload, translating in to real savings.  And, there is room for performance improvement as well, by moving up to a dual socket design.  In that scenario, doubling the performance of the Xeon rack still results in a 12% power budget savings.  Double the performance and still drawing less power per rack, Qualcomm’s going to be challenging Intel’s dominance in the datacenter.

 

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Qualcomm Centriq 2400 ARM Server Processor

Qualcomm has announced their new ARM Server processor, called the Centriq 2400, which is designed for high efficiency processing and is capable of handling datacenter workloads.  While Cavium, AMD, and Applied Micro all have ARM Server processors, Qualcomm’s new processor is the first to be built on a 10-nanometer manufacturing process.  It will be able to handle cloud software stacks now that the software ecosystem has matured, and should be able to compete with Xeon offerings as the hyperscalers like Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba, and China Mobile build out next generation datacenters.

Qualcomm has lots of experience of course developing, manufacturing, and selling ARM processors via their Snapdragon line of cell phone chips, so they do have an edge on the competition as vendors like Cavium and Applied Micro don’t have the same experience and relationships already built.  Additionally, Qualcomm can leverage some synergies with the Snapdragon 820 and 835, albeit they definitely have their differences.

With another vendor now entering the ARM Server marketplace (and a major one at that), the future is looking bright for ARM gaining more traction and making inroads in the datacenter.