February 6, 2018 // 10:58 a.m.
Former Intel president Renée James is back in the semiconductor business in a major way, with the launch of a start-up which aim to fight the company in one of its strongest areas: the data centre.
Renée James left Intel back in 2015 as part of an executive shake-up that saw James taking on the role of chief executive officer at an at-the-time unnamed company. Now, though, James is eager for the world to know the name of her current company and its plan to take on Intel in the data centre market with a range of high-performance Arm-based processors - stabbing her former company firmly in the front.
Ampere, the company's launch announcement (PDF warning) explains, aims to challenge Intel in the cloud computing industry with an Arm-based processor ecosystem offering improved memory performance and reduced power consumption compared to its rival's x86 parts. The first of these is an as-yet unnamed processor design which packs 32 custom 64-bit Arm v8 processor cores running at up to 3.3GHz under boost conditions with dedicated network and storage offload hardware and support for 1TB of eight-channel DDR4 memory per socket. These chips, the company claims, will have a thermal design profile (TDP) of 125W, and are built on Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC)'s 16nm FinFET+ process node. Other confirmed specifications include interrupt and input/output (IO) virtualisation, enterprise-class reliability, availability, and serviceability (RAS) features, 42 PCI Express Gen. 3 lanes across eight controllers, four SATA Gen. 3 ports, and two USB 2.0 ports.
For Intel, Ampere's announcement will be a blow: The company has long considered the data centre its sole domain, but now faces not only increased competition from long-standing rival AMD's Zen-based Epyc chips but now an Arm-based threat helmed by its former president. Other notable names in the 300-strong Ampere team include fellow Intel alumni Chi Miller, Atiq Bajwa, and Rohit Avinash Vidwans, the latter having worked on the teams responsible for Intel's first eight- and 10-core Xeon chips and multi-core Atom system-on-chip (SoC) designs, and Greg Favor who designed the first Arm v8 CPU implementation.
Ampere has not yet announced a launch date for its products.