Ampere achieves first 80-core server CPU: the Ampere Altra

Written by Jennifer Allen

March 4, 2020 | 13:00

Tags: #ampere-altra #server-cpu

Companies: #ampere

The industry's first 80-core server CPU is here and it comes courtesy of Ampere. No, not that Ampere, we mean the data centre chip startup firm, Ampere.

The company has started shipping its Ampere Altra, a chip that the company reckons is over twice as fast as Intel's Xeon Platinum 8280 processor. 

Designed for use in cloud data centres, it features a 7nm TSMC process based on a 64-bit Arm Ltd design to achieve its lofty goal of 80 cores on one CPU. Besides beating the Xeon Platinum 8280, Ampere also reports that it can provide 41 percent higher performance than the AMD EPYC 7702 and 63 percent better performance than the Intel Xeon Gold 6238R. Interestingly, it comes without threading so it executes software on a single thread per core, unlike how Intel's Xeon and AMD's EPYC does things.

That's what leads to Ampere's claim of superior power consumption. Ampere reckons it offers far better energy efficiency with a thermal design power of up to 210 watts providing improvements over competitors. In the past, energy efficiency has been a big issue for cloud data centres given the potential huge financial benefits of saving on power. 

Recent statistics have suggested that data centres use roughly 3 percent of the world's electricity with that number set to grow to 11 percent by 2030. At a time when there are concerns regarding the environment and climate change, power consumption could do with being made more efficient. 

The Altra chip offers up to 8 channels of DDR4-3200 memory (up to 4TB) with 200GBps of throughput per socket. There's also 128 lanes of PCIe 4.0 in a single-socket server with that increasing to 192 lanes in a dual-socket server. 

In a bid to entice cloud service providers, Ampere offers 2 server solutions with a choice of 1 or 2 socket servers, with up to 16 DIMMs per socket available. The firm says it's already provided samples to many of the top cloud service providers around the world with full production set to start later this year.

No pricing has been made available to the public but odds are you weren't intending on investing in a cloud and edge computing data centre setup. Instead, the fascinating part here is that Intel and AMD has a bit of competition on its hands when it comes to data centre processors. At a time when Intel has 95.5 percent of the server processor market with AMD tackling the meagre leftovers, this could shake things up a little. 

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