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Ampere’s ARM-based chips want a slice of Intel’s data centre pie

THE STORY of David and Goliath has clearly inspired chip and server maker Ampere as it has decided to make two 64-bit chips to take on Intel in the data centre world.

Ampere’s eMAG chips come in two takes on 64-bit server processors and, unlike Intel’s x86 CPUs, are based on ARM instruction sets and design.

While Intel is very much the giant of the server CPU arena, Ampere – founded by former Intel president Renee James – reckons it will win favour from server assemblers, data centre folks, and people who pull together such hardware for cloud infrastructure.

The so-called hyperscale cloud, think cloud platforms that are comfortable with supporting a few people to hosting a veritable orgy of users, is in Ampere’s sights for its new processors, which it said offer high performance with power efficiency, as well as features for high-capacity memory.

The idea is to have processors that offer plenty of bang for not a great deal of bucks and make scaling up a cloud setup more cost-effective.

Specs wise, the server processors come loaded with 16 or 32 Ampere-designed ARMv8-A cores that clock up to 3.3GHz, with eight DDR4-2667 memory controllers, and 42 lanes of PCIe 3.0. The chips make use of a 16-nanometer FinFET fabrication process courtesy of TSMC and have a thermal design power of 125W.

At $850, some £646, for the 32 core chip and $550, around £418, for the 16 core processor, Ampere’s new server chips are a good deal cheaper than 16 core Intel Xeon server processors.

It’s worth noting that the price differences are from a cursory glance at prices for Xeon CPUs on their own. Pre-built server systems with Xeon processors could be slotted into packages and presented in enterprise-grade deals that could offer the expensive chips in more affordable packages.

And there are no side-by-side benchmarks or comparisons with the direct Intel Xeon equivalent to compare Ampere’s chips to, especially as the underlying architecture is different. So we’ll not declare that David has slain Goliath until more savvy nerds do some proper comparisons or present case studies of Ampere’s server processors in action.

Either way, in the rather dry world of servers and their processors, it’s nice to see Intel is being challenged, as such adversity is what often leads to tech innovation. µ

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Source : Inquirer

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