Applied Micro Unveils Next-Gen ARM Server SoC
Moor Insights and Strategy's Moorhead also said that while ARM keeps pushing forward, so does Intel. The vendor continues to drive down the power consumption of its processors, is expanding its custom chip capabilities, is growing its use of accelerators like Xeon Phi and field-programmable gate arrays (FGPAs) via its planned Altera acquisition, and earlier this year launched the low-power Xeon D, the company's first server SoC. "Intel keeps plugging product holes," Moorhead said. Intel also is driving development of its upcoming "Skylake"-based "Purley" midrange Xeon E5 and high-end E7 server chips, which reportedly will come with improved performance, a new memory architecture, an integrated network fabric and a range of integrated accelerator options. Those are the chips that Applied Micro's X-Gene 3 SoC will compete with, CEO Gopi said. When ARM first started talking about getting into the server space, the focus was on low-power microservers. But Gopi and officials with Cavium said they were targeting the mainstream server space with their processors. (Cavium offers ThunderX.)The pressure on Applied Micro now is ensuring that X-Gene 3 stays on schedule and delivers what it promises, Moorhead said. The company will begin sampling the chip in the second half of 2016, with expected systems running on it coming on the market in 2017. Gopi said the company waited until now to talk about X-Gene to ensure that it could pass internal testing. He also pointed out that it's based on two other generations of what he called "battle-hardened" SoCs: X-Gene 1 SoCs are shipping now, and the company is sampling X-Gene 2. He noted that the vendor has shipped a $1 million worth of X-Gene products as of June, and that the SoCs were used in 10,000 servers that were shipped in a recent quarter. The X-Gene 3 will be the key driver behind ARM's push to 25 percent market share by 2020, Gopi said, adding that "this is the only way we're going to get to those numbers." "We're very, very optimistic about next year," he said. "This is no longer a PowerPoint exercise. This is not an exercise where we have aspirations. This is reality."
The performance improvements in the X-Gene 3—which has been under development for two years—will be driven in large part by a new interconnect technology Applied Micro has developed, Gopi said. The interconnect will enable "many cores to scale linearly" and unite 256 cores with 2TB of memory each. The CEO said he will disclose more about the interconnect technology—which he said will outperform Intel's QPI and not be proprietary—at the SC 15 supercomputing show in Austin, Texas, which starts Nov. 15.