Ex-Chipzilla exec Arms biz to SoC it to Intel in the data centre

Ampere Computing serving against reigning champ using reheated X-Gene tech

Ampere_chip

Carlyle Group-backed Ampere Computing, run by ex-Intel president Renée James, has launched a server-grade Arm system-on-a-chip to take on Chipzilla.

The SoC has a 32 64-bit Armv8 CPU cores, operating at up to 3.3GHz with turbo mode support. There are private 32KB of code and 32KB of data L1 caches per core, 256KB L2 caches for each pair of cores, and a 32MB L3 cache for all the cores. The technology is based on TSMC's 16nm FinFET+ process and has a power envelope of 125W.

It is designed for large-scale public and private cloud server environments with support for 1TB of DRAM (16 DIMMs) and claimed high performance, density and low power consumption. The specs, we are told, include:

  • CPU and IO virtualization support
  • Mixed signal IO features including PCIe Gen 3 (42 lanes), 4 x SATA Gen 3, 2 x USB 2.0
  • High-performance on-chip fabric
  • Network and storage offload engines
  • Integrated Ethernet
  • Compliance with the Arm server SBSA and SBBR standards
Ampere_block_diagram

Ampere SoC diagram

Ampere claimed the chip offers more retrieve-and-compute capability within your current data centre footprint while significantly lowering power and operating costs. There is an Ampere platform delivered in a 19-inch chassis with an evaluation board possessing a built-in power supply, DRAM memory, storage disks and networking. It comes with various firmware features, the CentOS operating system, and tools.

James, chairman and CEO of Ampere Computing, left Intel in 2016 and became an operating executive for private equity investor Carlyle.

X-Gene 3 in 2016 – no, not a superhero movie. It's a 16nm FinFET 64-bit ARM chip for servers

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Ampere is owned and funded by the Carlyle Group, which bought the X-Gene Arm server assets from MACOM in October. These assets were shopped around as MACOM only acquired them as part of its Applied Micro Circuits purchase in November 2016.

The X-Gene 3 design featured 32 x Armv8-A 64-bit cores, support for 1TB of DRAM and 42 x PCIe 3.0 lanes. It looks like the Ampere SoC is based on the Applied Micro Circuits X-Gene 3 design, and various analysts have been weighing in about this.

We might expect the product to ship around the middle of the year. Get an Ampere product brief here [PDF], and register for a full data sheet here.

The Register has asked both Ampere and the Carlyle Group for comment. ®

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