Cavium's offerings include custom processor cores, an efficient caching subsystem, high memory bandwidth and system virtualization. They also include application-specific integrated hardware accelerators and customized I/O configurations. The 280-nanometer ThunderX chips, which are compliant with ARM's Server Base System Architecture standard—which was introduced earlier this year—will come with eight to 48 cores; four DDR3.4 72-bit memory controllers; hundreds of the hardware accelerators for security, storage, networking and virtualization applications; and virtualization capabilities via Cavium's virtSOC technology.
Cavium will be sampling the chips with system OEMs later this year, with servers powered by the chips expected in 2015, Hegde said. The next generation will come out in 2016, and will include new cores, a new microarchitecture, next-generation I/O technology, and more accelerators, according to the company.
The first of the ThunderX chips—all with up to 48 cores and integrated virtSOC—will focus on four areas, he said. The ThunderX_CP, which will be aimed at cloud Web servers, content delivery tasks, Web caching, search and social media workloads, will come with multiple 10/40 Gigabit Ethernet and high memory bandwidth. The Thunder_ST SoCs, optimized for Hadoop and storage workloads, will also come with PCIe Gen3 ports, dual-socket coherency, and a scalable fabric for east-west and north-south traffic connectivity.
Thunder_SC is aimed at security appliances and secure Web front-end systems and will come with Cavium's fourth-generation Nitrox and TurboDPI technology with accelerators for such security standards as IPSec and SSL, anti-malware and antivirus protection, and firewall capabilities. Thunder_NT, for media servers, scale-out embedded application and network-functions virtualization (NFV) workloads, include quality-of-service (QoS) traffic shaping, tunnel termination and bandwidth provisioning capabilities.
The ThunderX CN87xx SoCs—highly energy-efficient and cost-effective—will offer eight to 16 cores and be optimized for entry-level applications like cold storage, distributed content delivery, dedicated hosting and distributed memory caching, the company said.
Cavium also is looking to build up the ecosystem around ThunderX. According to Larry Wikelius, director of ecosystem and partner enabling for the Data Center Processor Group, ThunderX will be supported by Canonical on its Ubuntu Linux OS as well as the MontaVista Linux distribution. In addition, Gigabyte Technologies will use the chip in its servers.
To help drive adoption, Cavium also has created reference platforms.