Wednesday, March 4th 2020

Ampere Computing Uncovers 80 Core "Cloud-Native" Arm Processor

Ampere Computing, a startup focusing on making HPC and processors from cloud applications based on Arm Instruction Set Architecture, today announced the release of a first 80 core "cloud-native" processor based on the Arm ISA. The new Ampere Altra CPU is the company's first 80 core CPU meant for hyper scalers like Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. Being built on TSMC's 7 nm semiconductor manufacturing process, the Altra is a CPU that is utilizing a monolithic die to achieve maximum performance. Using Arm's v8.2+ instruction set, the CPU is using the Neoverse N1 platform as its core, to be ready for any data center workload needed. It also borrows a few security features from v8.3 and v8.5, namely the hardware mitigations of speculative attacks.

When it comes to the core itself, the CPU is running at 3.0 GHz frequency and has some very interesting specifications. The design of the core is such that it is 4-wide superscalar Out of Order Execution (OoOE), which Ampere refers to as "aggressive" meaning that there is a lot of data throughput going on. The cache levels are structured in a way that there is 64 KB of L1D and L1I cache per core, along with 1 MB of L2 cache per core as well. For system-level cache, there is 32 MB of L3 available to the SoC. All of the caches have Error-correcting code (ECC) built-in, giving the CPU a much-needed feature. There are two 128-bit wide Single Instruction Multiple Data (SIMD) units, which are there to do parallel processing if needed. There is no mention if they implement Arm's Scalable Vector Extensions (SVE) or not.
The SoC is capable of handling 8-channel DDR4 memory running at 3200 MHz, and it supports up to 4 TB of memory per socket. Given that the CPU is also available in dual-socket configurations, you can get up to 8 TB of RAM in your system. From the CPU, there are 128 PCIe 4.0 lanes coming, however, if you opt to use a dual-socket configuration, 32 of those PCIe lanes are wasted on CPU-to-CPU communication and connection. That makes for a total of 192 PCIe 4.0 lanes in the dual-socket configuration, which is a decent amount. Of course, if a system like this wants to be a solid choice for hyper scalers, there needs to be a cache coherency protocol in place. Ampere is implementing the CCIX protocol here that runs over the PCIe lanes and it provides speeds of 25 GB/s per x16 slot. Whole SoC runs anywhere from 45 W to 210 W of TDP, given the core amount. The exact details on available SKUs are unknown yet.
Source: AnandTech
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30 Comments on Ampere Computing Uncovers 80 Core "Cloud-Native" Arm Processor

#1
ratirt
80 core arm, 8-channel DDR4 and 3Ghz. The frequency is low but considering 80 cores that is still not bad. Maybe the ARM arch is the future of computing that will put to rest x86 arch? Does this ARM 80 core CPU has a multi threading? It doesn't say straight if it does. The Ampere Computing really kick things up a notch with this. 210W with 80 core processor. That's even better than AMD's only if it has multi threading. I'd really like to see a comparison of this one and x86 to see what's the difference in the performance.
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#2
AleksandarK
ratirt
80 core arm, 8-channel DDR4 and 3Ghz. The frequency is low but considering 80 cores that is still not bad. Maybe the ARM arch is the future of computing that will put to rest x86 arch? Does this ARM 80 core CPU has a multi threading? It doesn't say straight if it does. The Ampere Computing really kick things up a notch with this. 210W with 80 core processor. That's even better than AMD's only if it has multi threading. I'd really like to see a comparison of this one and x86 to see what's the difference in the performance.
No mention of hyperthreading, but there are some performance numbers provided by Ampere. Didnt provide those cuz i take every vendor-provided performance claim with a grain of salt, so waiting for some reviews like from the folks over at ServeTheHome.
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#3
ratirt
AleksandarK
No mention of hyperthreading, but there are some performance numbers provided by Ampere. Didnt provide those cuz i take every vendor-provided performance claim with a grain of salt, so waiting for some reviews like from the folks over at ServeTheHome.
I'm looking forward to see those numbers and benchmarks especially against AMD's products. Been looking to ARM evolution for a while and this tech is up to speed so damn much. I really think, some day, the time will come when ARM kicks x86 out of the horse saddle to roam the fields of computing.
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#4
biffzinker
ratirt
Does this ARM 80 core CPU has a multi threading?
Servethehome had this in their news coverage:
Perhaps the most interesting feature is that this is a single-threaded core. Intel and AMD offer SMT cores (Hyper-Threading for Intel) with two threads per core on current generations of mainstream Xeon and EPYC CPUs (excluding the Xeon Bronze from the discussion.) Ampere contends that by removing SMT, it can increase QoS by lowering resource contention, leading to predictable performance.
www.servethehome.com/ampere-altra-80-arm-cores-for-cloud/
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#6
T4C Fantasy
CPU & GPU DB Maintainer
ratirt
Well, if this is true then, the x86 demise will happen sooner than I thought.
x86 won't be going anywhere for a very long time. x86 is desktop dominate, only if Linux rises will ARM even get a chance tbh.
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#7
ratirt
T4C Fantasy
x86 won't be going anywhere for a very long time. x86 is desktop dominate, only if Linux rises will ARM even get a chance tbh.
You sure about this? ARM already made it to server market which is a great achievement. x86 is a desktop dominate as long as something more reliable, flexible, efficient and cheaper comes around. It is hard to think that we will not be using x86 for desktops but who knows what will happen. ARM is doing pretty well and it is growing over the markets very fast. I'm not saying it will punch the x86 now or within 5 years or anything. What I'm saying is, ARM has a good chance of doing this in the future.
The 3rd party benchmarks will reveal some stuff and we would be able to compare it with x86 performance. Lets focus on performance at the moment and we will see where get with this. Besides, Microsoft has a windows designed just for ARM. What is that tell you?
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#8
T4C Fantasy
CPU & GPU DB Maintainer
ratirt
You sure about this? ARM already made it to server market which is a great achievement. x86 is a desktop dominate as long as something more reliable, flexible, efficient and cheaper comes around. It is hard to think that we will not be using x86 for desktops but who knows what will happen. ARM is doing pretty well and it is growing over the markets very fast. I'm not saying it will punch the x86 now or within 5 years or anything. What I'm saying is, ARM has a good chance of doing this in the future.
The 3rd party benchmarks will reveal some stuff and we would be able to compare it with x86 performance. Lets focus on performance at the moment and we will see where get with this. Besides, Microsoft has a windows designed just for ARM. What is that tell you?
I'm pretty sure it won't be mainstream in desktop PC's just like Linux and chrome books aren't, according to steam 94% to 98% of ppl game on windows and we would need to change everything. It's just a dream nothing more, atleast for the next 10 years.
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#9
biffzinker
I'd rather have RISC-V be the dominate CPU architecture.
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#10
ratirt
T4C Fantasy
I'm pretty sure it won't be mainstream in desktop PC's just like Linux and chrome books aren't, according to steam 94% to 98% of ppl game on windows and we would need to change everything. It's just a dream nothing more, atleast for the next 10 years.
I know where you're getting with this but not all of it is true though. Windows ARM can run regular desktop x86 applications which are emulated of course but at the software level. That can be the path for a transition between x86 and ARM architectures. I never said it will happen today or tomorrow but it is possible. If ARM shows some potential (and it is showing one already) it can happen. If you can run x86 apps on WIndows with ARM, you can game on it with games made for x86 windows.
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#11
R0H1T
ratirt
Well, if this is true then, the x86 demise will happen sooner than I thought.
You've likely missed the many caveats in performance numbers, like this ~
Ampere did not disclose the TDP here but that is OK at this point. What we will note is that Ampere de-rated both the AMD EPYC 7742 and Xeon Platinum 8280 results by 16.5% and 24% respectively. This was done to adjust for using GCC versus AOCC2.0 and ICC 19.0.1.144. Ampere disclosed this, and it is a big impact. Arm servers tend to use GCC as the compiler while there are more optimized compilers out there for AMD and Intel.
As with most manufacturer benchmarks, take them with two handful of salt & a pinch of whatever else you prefer :pimp:
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#12
T4C Fantasy
CPU & GPU DB Maintainer
ratirt
I know where you're getting with this but not all of it is true though. Windows ARM can run regular desktop x86 applications which are emulated of course but at the software level. That can be the path for a transition between x86 and ARM architectures. I never said it will happen today or tomorrow but it is possible. If ARM shows some potential (and it is showing one already) it can happen. If you can run x86 apps on WIndows with ARM, you can game on it with games made for x86 windows.
None of that even matters. trying to get aibs on board and the public is the obstacle, Linux would dominate if they made the default options when buying all PC's to have Linux installed. Dell hp etc will not be selling mainstream arm pcs therefore at most arm would have a 2% desktop market share, I mean come on.. Linux is free and well... Never adopted by the board partners

Adopting a different platform to this space is incredibly difficult, nobody wants emulation, that is usually a huge performance loss.

The server space has its own stuff, IBM has some nice CPUs too
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#13
ratirt
R0H1T
You've likely missed the many caveats in performance numbers, like this ~

As with most manufacturer benchmarks, take them with two handful of salt & a pinch of whatever else you prefer :pimp:
T4C Fantasy
None of that even matters. trying to get aibs on board and the public is the obstacle, Linux would dominate if they made the default options when buying all PC's to have Linux installed. Dell hp etc will not be selling mainstream arm pcs therefore at most arm would have a 2% desktop market share, I mean come on.. Linux is free and well... Never adopted by the board partners

Adopting a different platform to this space is incredibly difficult, nobody wants emulation, that is usually a huge performance loss.

The server space has its own stuff, IBM has some nice CPUs too
Guys, chillax. I'm not saying that this is going to happen now. What I'm saying, it is possible. Besides look at the advancement of x86 vs ARM. The ARM arch is catching up. I know the idea of x86 to be replaced with ARM nowadays look crazy. I'm saying it is possible and that depends on the progress of the ARM architecture.
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#14
londiste
ratirt
Does this ARM 80 core CPU has a multi threading?
Would that really be useful with narrow cores like this? Both Intel and AMD have cores that are at least twice as wide and both have limited benefit with 2-way SMT, less so when spread further.
ratirt
Besides, Microsoft has a windows designed just for ARM. What is that tell you?
Microsoft has had Windows for ARM since late 90s in form of Windows CE and its successors.
ratirt
Besides look at the advancement of x86 vs ARM. The ARM arch is catching up. I know the idea of x86 to be replaced with ARM nowadays look crazy. I'm saying it is possible and that depends on the progress of the ARM architecture.
I would really love to see how an ARM core compares to something like Tremont.
ARM's strength has never been performance. It has _enough_ performance and can keep both core size as well as power/heat low thanks to that.
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#15
R0H1T
londiste
I would really love to see how an ARM core compares to something like Tremont.
ARM's strength has never been performance. It has _enough_ performance and can keep both core size as well as power/heat low thanks to that.
Except Apple, right? There's really no parallel to them in that space neither from AMD nor Intel.
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#16
londiste
R0H1T
Except Apple, right? There's really no parallel to them in that space neither from AMD nor Intel.
Which space? Both tried.
Intel gave up on Atoms when they deemed the market to be too low-margin (and Atoms were too expensive). They keep on making Atoms for some niches but not as aggressively.
AMD had Jaguar that powers consoles to this day but the line was abandoned after Puma in 2015.

There are very-very few useful comparisons between ARM and x86. ARM does well in low power, does well in server workloads where CPUs are idle much of the time. ThunderX2 tests showed much of that for server CPUs. Mainsteam x86 are bigger, hungrier and more powerful - competing in a different space.
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#17
R0H1T
Well the smarphone & tablet space to be specific, as for IPC you'll find Apple is nearly there ~
Last year I’ve noted that the A12 was margins off the best desktop CPU cores. This year, the A13 has essentially matched best that AMD and Intel have to offer – in SPECint2006 at least. In SPECfp2006 the A13 is still roughly 15% behind.
www.anandtech.com/show/14892/the-apple-iphone-11-pro-and-max-review/4
I understand the SPEC results aren't exactly "IPC" but we have no desktop apps running on iOS so that comparison will have to wait at least another 6 months or so. In fact it's quite likely that Axx will outperform the best from Intel, on their upcoming (rumored) Macbooks especially with the deep integration Apple already has with iOS & their custom ARM cores.
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#18
ratirt
londiste
Would that really be useful with narrow cores like this? Both Intel and AMD have cores that are at least twice as wide and both have limited benefit with 2-way SMT, less so when spread further.
Microsoft has had Windows for ARM since late 90s in form of Windows CE and its successors.
I would really love to see how an ARM core compares to something like Tremont.
ARM's strength has never been performance. It has _enough_ performance and can keep both core size as well as power/heat low thanks to that.
I understand what you are saying. I agree with most of it but the development for ARM is booming now. It is gaining traction. I'd like to see the comparison of the x86 and ARM and see were they are now. I'm sure ARM is chasing x86 fast. How much off in terms of performance it still is we will see but it is getting closer and closer.
With the benefits of the multithreads, you can see there is a benefit, in my eyes this is the way you can actually gain performance. We can't rely on frequency any longer. Maybe the AMD cores or Intel's cores are faster than ARM at the moment but it doesn't mean, ARM's cores can't get faster. There's plenty of room for the improvement non like in x86 which we see in every iteration of a processor being released.

Sure, Microsoft has had ARM Windows CT then RT but this one, Windows 10 for ARM is more promising in my eyes. Besides, back in the 90's, x86 was gaining way more performance margins each CPU release than now. Since it was developing pretty fast. Maybe that is why ARM had been left out for further development but it hasn't been forgotten. ARM is starting now and it is growing. Apparently, ARM has no trouble with getting more cores in the CPUs like Intel has so it is a matter of time when ARM surpasses Intel or even AMD. This architecture is more flexible than x86 that's for sure. If it will end up in desktop market? I don't know but I know with ARM it is possible and there are also benefits for this transition.
Consider this that way.
x86 computer nowadays are mostly for servers and desktops. With some tweaks in power, x86 CPUs can be put in a laptop or low power laptops when the TDP is right.
ARM is mobile segment's power efficient master. With some tweaks to squeeze more performance out of these giving it more power it may become a desktop processor.
It's like both started in a different segment and wanting to spread into other markets, some things must have been adjusted in terms of performance to find its way into that different markets.
So, ARM is possible for a desktop PC now. Who know if it will be beneficial to use ARM instead x86 in the future. If it happens or not time will tell. If it is going to happen, we will have to wait and see what will it bring and how will it progress afterwards.
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#19
Vya Domus
32MB of L3 cache is a measly amount for such a high core count, that's going to cripple the performance in many, many ways. There's a reason AMD has fitted 16MB of caches on just one chiplet.
ratirt
You sure about this?
Yes we're sure of it. I've talked about this in another thread but the gist of it is that ARM based chips will never make a considerable dent in the server space because ARM does not design their cores for these applications and the burden of making a chip for a high performance environment falls exclusively on the company that has licensed the ISA. So you're basically looking at companies creating competing products from scratch meant to go against two giants that have been doing that for decades and hold IP and know-how beyond anything they'd ever hope for.
ratirt
Besides, Microsoft has a windows designed just for ARM. What is that tell you?
It tells us that ARM will continue to fill the one role it was designed for and that is low-powered mobile devices.
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#20
ratirt
Vya Domus
Yes we're sure of it.
You see. I'm not so sure about it any longer. I don't mind the two giants but we all have seen giants in the 80's and 90's come and go.
Vya Domus
It tells us that ARM will continue to fill the one role it was designed for and that is low-powered mobile devices.
I wouldn't be so sure. You guys cling to the fact that x86 has been here always and there is no way it will go away. I'm not that sure since needs so as markets change and it doesn't matter which architecture has been longer in the market or which giant possess it but rather what the markets evolution demands are. The last one can change everything.
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#21
londiste
ratirt
Maybe the AMD cores or Intel's cores are faster than ARM at the moment but it doesn't mean, ARM's cores can't get faster. There's plenty of room for the improvement non like in x86 which we see in every iteration of a processor being released
They can get faster, sure. But the powerful ARM cores are no longer that small any more either. A13's Lightning core is 2.6 mm^2 on 7N+, Zen2 core is 3.6 mm^2 on 7N.
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#22
ratirt
londiste
They can get faster, sure. But the powerful ARM cores are no longer that small any more either. A13's Lightning core is 2.6 mm^2 on 7N+, Zen2 core is 3.6 mm^2 on 7N.
I understand that. No doubt about it. yet ARM is able to get 80 cores and considering that it is not in a mainstream desktop market it is impressive. The improvements and development of ARM can change very fast if the 3rd parties support the architecture. Look at mobile market. Intel is basically out of it thanks to ARM. Just saying, ARM has potential and that can be transferred into desktops but some time and support in that matter is needed. We will see what happens. Now I'm just waiting for benchmarks to see what it can do :)
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#23
londiste
What do you mean "considering that it is not in mainstream desktop market"? It is a very specialized chip for server market. It is not the first and will definitely not be last. ThunderX2 had 32 cores on 14nm for the same segment a couple years ago.

Intel was never in the mobile market. Atom was an attempt against ARM but it did not work too well.
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#24
R0H1T
londiste
Intel was never in the mobile market. Atom was an attempt against ARM but it did not work too well.
That's not true lest you forgot SoFIA, if you want I can pull up their numbers (billions of $ trying to cram it in the segment) & the models that actually featured in smartphones & of course tablets. Part of the reason they failed was the efficiency was way lower at that time, secondly baseband that were horribly uncompetitive & that's why they had to sell their 5G (modem) division to Apple. Intel tried a good 3~4 years to get a foothold & spent well north of $10 Billion to get a foothold, which obviously wasn't enough considering how bad their products were.

www.anandtech.com/show/10288/intel-broxton-sofia-smartphone-socs-cancelled
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#25
londiste
R0H1T
That's not true lest you forgot Sofia, if you want I can pull up their numbers (billions of $ trying to cram it in the segment) & the models that actually featured in smartphones & of course tablets. Part of the reason they failed was the efficiency was way lower at that time, secondly baseband that were horribly uncompetitive & that's why they had to sell their 5G (modem) division to Apple.
Efficiency is two-part equation. Atoms were more powerful than ARM at the time but did consume more power. It didn't help that it took Intel a few years to get Atoms done proper. Sure, they used billions of dollars to try and shove Atom into the market and failed but this is always the case with established markets. Did Intel actually manage to get baseband into Atoms? When they called it quits some C-level person pretty directly said this market is not for them due to low margins.
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