System Vendors Unveil ARM-Based Server Offerings

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2015-11-18 Print this article Print
ARM-based SoC

However, executives with both Applied Micro and Cavium said they intended to power systems for mainstream workloads, and Applied's Gopi said at the TechCon show that X-Gene 3 will compete with Intel's mid-range Xeon E5 and high-end E7 processors. X-Gene 3 will house 32 cores running up to 3GHz, eight DDR4 memory channels and 42 PCIe Gen 3 lanes. It will be manufactured via Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing's 16-nanometer FinFET process and will offer four to six times the performance of the current X-Gene chips, according to Gopi.

At the TechCon show, the CEO teased the integrated connectivity technology that will come with X-Gene 3, but said more details would come at SC 15. The company on Nov. 16 introduced X-Tend, which officials said will enable multiple generations of X-Gene SoCs to be connected with large, elastic memory pools. Emerging workloads like data mining, real-time analytics and machine learning demand minimal latency and flexible, immediate provisioning of compute and memory resources, they said.

X-Tend is made up of on-chip and software components that will not only connect multiple X-Gene nodes to each other, but also show multiple terabytes of shared DRAM as a single cluster. Evaluation platforms for X-Tend are shipping to Applied Micro customers, officials said.

"X-Tend utilizes open standards, including PCI Express, to provide multi-socket configurations with a single symmetric multiprocessor OS image, accessing huge memory pools with very low latency," Gopi said in a statement. "On-demand scale-up capability is particularly applicable to compute-intensive workloads like high-performance computing and advanced search algorithms."

He said last week that X-Gene 3 will be a key product for driving ARM's push to gain 25 percent of the server market. ARM officials at TechCon said they were confident in their ability to hit that goal, both because of the chips being developed and the growth of the surrounding software ecosystem. However, they will have to overcome significant challenges. Intel is continuing to drive down the power consumption of its chips, and is adding accelerators like GPUs and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). At the same time, the company is driving development of its upcoming "Skylake"-based "Purley" Xeons, which reportedly will come with improved performance, a new memory architecture, an integrated network fabric and an integrated accelerator option.

In addition, ARM is facing competition from IBM and its OpenPower Foundation—which was created to expand the use of the Power architecture—for the position as the data center alternative to Intel. At SC 15, IBM announced a partnership to expand the use of FPGAs in Power systems.


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