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AMD announces ARM-based Opterons

AMD announces ARM-based Opterons

AMD's Opteron brand is getting an ARM flavour, as the company licenses the 64-bit ARMv8 instruction set architecture.

AMD has announced that it is to produce ARM-based processors for the server market, using its SeaMicro subsidiary to create hybrid systems combining the flexibility of the x86 instruction set with the high performance-per-watt of ARM chips.

Announced at an event in the US last night, the deal will see AMD become an ARM licensee for the first time with a deal to produce chips based around a 64-bit implementation of ARMv8, based on the ARMv7A instruction set architecture found in the Cortex-A15 'Eagle' IP but replacing the 32-bit-with-48-bit-addressing model with a true 64-bit implementation. Sold under the Opteron brand, the ARM chips will find a home in SeaMicro's microservers, using the Freedom supercomputer fabric interconnect to combine thousands of processor clusters into low-power high-performance systems.

The project has been in the works for a while now, with AMD quietly picking up a licence for the 64-bit ARMv8 architecture last year and working on the project in secret alongside the Cambridge-based semiconductor design giant. While the company has teased 'a variety of different products,' AMD has yet to come out and state whether or not it plans to produce consumer-oriented ARM chips in order to take on graphics rival Nvidia's Tegra system-on-chip (SoC) family.

'AMD led the datacentre transition to mainstream 64-bit computing with AMD64, and with our ambidextrous strategy we will again lead the next major industry inflection point by driving the widespread adoption of energy-efficient 64-bit server processors based on both the x86 and ARM architectures,' claimed Rory Read, president and chief executive officer of AMD, at the announcement. 'Through our collaboration with ARM, we are building on AMD’s rich IP portfolio, including our deep 64-bit processor knowledge and industry-leading AMD SeaMicro Freedom supercompute fabric, to offer the most flexible and complete processing solutions for the modern datacentre.'

Full details of the deal have yet to be released, but already the industry is coming out in support of AMD's partnership with ARM. Both Dell and HP have pledged their support for AMD's Opteron-branded ARM chips, with the latter going as far as to promise products based around the system. Linux giant Red Hat has also pledged its support, with the company's chief ARM architect Jon Masters promising to add Opteron ARM support to future revisions of the community-powered Fedora distribution.

The news will come as a blow for Intel, which is already showing signs of distress over the increasing success of ARM's ever-more-powerful chip designs. With Intel having long since given up its own ARM licence - obtained as part of its acquisition of parts of Digital Equipment Corporation in 2002 - AMD is uniquely positioned as the only major datacentre-focused semiconductor company to offer an ARM chip. Should the design gain traction, it could put real pressure on Intel's lucrative server market share.

For now, however, Intel has a while before it has to start worrying: AMD has no plans to release the Opteron ARM chips before 2014.

9 Comments

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Harlequin 30th October 2012, 11:00 Quote
i`ll say it now - TOLD YOU SO ; said this a few months back AMD are moving into ARM....
NikoBellic 30th October 2012, 11:50 Quote
Well done AMD, Intel are still strong in the PC Gaming market, but most day to day user tasks can already be handled quite well by ARM, and its not gonna be too long until ARM delivers the performance of x86-64 yet still has that infamous ARM efficiency!. Can't wait to try OC'in a future ARM based desktop chip with watercooling! ;)
p3n 30th October 2012, 13:58 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by NikoBellic
Well done AMD, Intel are still strong in the PC Gaming market, but most day to day user tasks can already be handled quite well by ARM, and its not gonna be too long until ARM delivers the performance of x86-64 yet still has that infamous ARM efficiency!. Can't wait to try OC'in a future ARM based desktop chip with watercooling! ;)

Total codswhallop...
asura 30th October 2012, 14:57 Quote
Total? Codswallop?

Are Intel strong in the PC gaming market? Yes.

Can ARM handle many day to day tasks? RasPi does browsing and word processing to an adequate degree and can playback at HD quality and it uses an old cortex... so again yes.

How long until ARM delivers x86-64 performance? Well this one's a stumper, particularly as "x86-64" is a pretty wide open goal a quick google points out that the first was the AMD Opteron... I couldn't quantify it, but I'm pretty sure that if someone did some testing comparing a top of the range ARM chip with an old K8 then ARM would come out on top. Conversely compare the same ARM chip to a high end Intel or AMD product and I'm sure we'd see it brought to it's knees. It's a bad first statement, not what I'd term codswallop, but he hadn't properly defined his terms.

ARM, efficient? Again, yes, again.

ARM, over-clocking? Yet again, yes; jumping back to the RasPi, it's ridiculously easy in Rasparian, open up a txt editor, enter the clock speed you want, and if it's possible then it's there on your next boot.

Water cooling an Arm chip? Well, it's a bit silly due to the aforementioned efficiency. But whatever floats your boat.
Narishma 30th October 2012, 17:30 Quote
Quote:
Announced at an event in the US last night, the deal will see AMD become an ARM licensee for the first time with a deal to produce chips based around a 64-bit implementation of ARMv8, the instruction set architecture found in the Cortex-A15 'Eagle' IP.
The Cortex A15 supports the ARMv7a instruction set which is 32-bit with a PAE-like extension to support 40-bit memory addressing at the OS level, but not at the application level.
Blackshark 30th October 2012, 17:37 Quote
ARM implementation will always do certain things well, it will always lack behind as well. There is no magic solution that will give you perfect 64 and 32bit execution whilst doing it at normal ARM power usage levels. If it could be done, it would be being done. However, what ARM are doing, with the software to support it, is making people ask the question as to whether the cost and power usage differences are worth it. For peeps needing raw power, the answer is yes. For those that want a tablet in future, the answer is no, ARM will provide what the platform and user needs.

As is said above, AMDs saving grace is that they recognise the need to deliver a good product at the low end. Both with this licensing agreement and their APUs. What Intel give is is useless Atoms. They were no good when they came out and still suck &#/¤ IMO. Will they be better in 12 to 18 months once they get an inegrated GPU, erm, no. It will be woefully underpowered and will provide so little GPU muscle the machines with them in will struggle with showing the Metro start screen.
Blackshark 30th October 2012, 17:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by asura
Water cooling an Arm chip? Well, it's a bit silly due to the aforementioned efficiency. But whatever floats your boat.

Many users are finding significant gains using heatsinks and quiet fans on our RPis. I would certainly consider a integrated peltier and water cooler! Oh hang on, that kills the power efficiency a bit doesn't it!?
NikoBellic 30th October 2012, 17:56 Quote
The reason I mentioned the idea of water cooling was because I would like to see how well a more power efficient/cooler cpu architecure would OC, although I'm not really a big fan of running my system in an OC'd state unless I'm doing a little gaming for the next few hours... which admittedly is rare these days...

I've tried OC'ing my SGS2 before to see how well that would run with higher clock speeds and that did cause it to get very hot, hence I suggested water cooling, and the reason I'd want to try it on a desktop chip is because I believe that it would be easier to get a good water cooling kit for a desktop setup lol...

but power efficiency is still more important to me than higher clock speeds, OC'in is just a hobby when I've got a few hours to spare, and when I'm done I restore most settings back to their defaults...
Gareth Halfacree 31st October 2012, 10:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Narishma
The Cortex A15 supports the ARMv7a instruction set which is 32-bit with a PAE-like extension to support 40-bit memory addressing at the OS level, but not at the application level.
Quite right - brainfart. Corrected, ta!
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