AMD Launches ARM Server Developer Kit

The chip maker's offering includes its Opteron A100 "Seattle" SoC, its first chip based on the ARM architecture.


Advanced Micro Devices officials, two years after announcing plans to make server chips based on ARM's architecture, is unveiling the first of those processors as part of a development kit aimed at software makers.

The developer kit, announced July 30, comes six months after the company first introduced its Opteron A1100-Series "Seattle" system-on-a-chip (SoC), a 28-nanometer 64-bit processor based on ARM's Cortex-A57 server platform that offers four or eight cores and is aimed at such workloads as Web applications, hosting and storage. Software developers, hardware makers and early adopters can apply on AMD's Website to get a developer kit, which includes a quad-core Seattle SoC, PCI Express connectors, eight Serial-ATA connector, 16GB of DDR3 memory, a Fedora Linux environment and standard Linux GNU tools.

The $2,999 kit also comes with an Apache Web server, MySQL database engine, PHP scripting language, and Java 7 and 8 that will give developers a 64-bit work environment, according to AMD officials.

The developer kit and Seattle chip also give AMD a leg up on what promises to be a land rush of sorts for traction in what looks to be a highly competitive ARM server chip space. Almost a dozen chip makers—including Applied Micro, Cavium and Marvell Technology—are pushing forward with plans to release ARM-based SoCs aimed at a server market that is dominated by Intel's x86-based portfolio.

Systems powered by these chips are expected to begin hitting the market later this year and pick up momentum into 2015. Analysts have said they expect a consolidation to occur in the space, with only a few chip vendors remaining. AMD officials have said they expect the company to lead in the ARM server chip market, given AMD's years of experience in the x86 space, its IP and its comparatively strong financial position. AMD has spent decades building and selling chips, which is an expensive undertaking, they've said.

"The journey toward a more efficient infrastructure for large-scale datacenters is taking a major step forward today with broader availability of our AMD Opteron A1100-Series development kit," Suresh Gopalakrishnan, general manager and vice president of AMD's Server Business Unit, said in a statement.

AMD has been sampling the SoC with software makers for several months, Gopalakrishnan said. The A1100 chips offer up to 4MB of shared Level 2 (L2) cache, and 8MB of L3 cache, according to AMD. The chip supports eight lanes of PCI Express Gen 3 I/O, eight SATA ports, two 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports and ARM's TrustZone security technology.

AMD's launching of the developer kit came the same day Red Hat—a longtime supporter of ARM chips in the data center—introduced its ARM Partner Early Access Program, designed to encourage hardware and software makers to create a single platform for ARM-based 64-bit systems. AMD and ARM were among the partners that helped develop the program.

The Opteron A1100 is on the first step by AMD in a multiyear plan that aims to more tightly link the company's traditional x86 platform with its low-power ARM offerings. AMD in May introduced "Project SkyBridge," which over the next two years will include making the x86 and ARM chips pin-compatible, enabling them both to run on the same motherboard with few tweaks.

In addition, in 2016, AMD will begin introducing high-performance, low-power "K12" chips based on ARM cores developed in-house.