Menu
AMD mulls custom ARM 64-bit server chips

AMD mulls custom ARM 64-bit server chips

AMD said it will customize 64-bit ARM server chips for customers, but first needs to see how the market evolves

AMD's Opteron A1100 ARM server chip

AMD's Opteron A1100 ARM server chip

Advanced Micro Devices may be willing to make custom ARM server chips for customers, much like it made custom chips for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 game consoles.

The chip maker will consider customizing its 64-bit ARM server processor to meet specific customer needs as a market for the new type of servers evolves, and the company gets better visibility of usage models, said Sean White, an engineer at Advanced Micro Devices, during a presentation at the Hot Chips conference in Cupertino, California.

ARM chips are used mostly in mobile devices and are yet unproven in servers. But there is growing interest in using the low-power processors for Web-hosting and cloud applications. AMD's ARM server chips could go into dense servers and process such applications while saving power, White said.

"There are more and more of those applications that are showing up in big data centers," White said. "They don't want traditional high-end... database type workloads."

No 64-bit ARM servers have shipped yet, but AMD said its chips will be in servers by year end. As ARM server use grows, the usage model will become clearer, and AMD has the architectural flexibility to tweak chips to meet the specific needs of customers, much like it did for Microsoft and Sony on their latest game consoles, White said.

"If you want to customize an SOC to exactly what you want, or to put on a piece of your [intellectual property]... you can do that in here," White said.

He provided the example of possibly customizing I/O and ports for specific customers.

AMD also shared the technical details of its first 64-bit ARM processor called Opteron A1100, code-named Seattle, at Hot Chips. The company has already started shipping the chips to server makers for testing. The first Seattle servers are expected to ship by the end of this year or early next year. One of the first servers with the new chip could be AMD's own SeaMicro server.

The company also makes x86 server chips, but is placing a big bet on ARM chips. Some of AMD's ARM server competitors include AppliedMicro, and it will continue to contend with Intel on x86 servers, which dominates data centers. Intel is already making custom processors based on its Xeon chips for large data center customers like eBay.

AMD last year also started putting more emphasis on the custom chip business after the PC market declined. The company is already recording strong custom chip revenue thanks to the game consoles, which are shipping in the millions.

The Seattle server chip has two DDR3 and DDR4 memory channels, which is half that of the typical four memory channels in its x86 server chips. The ARM chip will have up to 4MB L2 cache, with two cores sharing 1MB. A total of 8MB of L3 cache is accessible to all eight cores.

New to ARM processors is ECC memory, which is important in servers to correct data errors. The 32-bit ARM processors did not have ECC memory, which is a common in x86 server chips.

Each Seattle CPU will support up to 128GB of memory, totaling up to 1TB for the eight CPU cores on Opteron-A1100. The 32-bit ARM chips supported only up to 4GB of memory.

Other features on the chip include engines to encrypt and decrypt data and to compress and decompress data. A TrustZone security engine establishes trusted execution zones to safely execute code without hurting system integrity.

Seattle supports a "Swiss army knife" of common interfaces such as 10-gigabit Ethernet, PCI-Express and SATA storage, White said.

AMD has already started shipping a reference board with the Seattle processor to select customers that want to write and test applications.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags serversAdvanced Micro Deviceshardware systemsComponentsprocessors

Featured

Slideshows

Arrow exclusively introduces Tenable Network Security to A/NZ channel

Arrow exclusively introduces Tenable Network Security to A/NZ channel

Arrow Electronics introduced Tenable Network Security to local resellers in Sydney last week, officially launching the distributor's latest security partnership across Australia and New Zealand. Representing the first direct distribution agreement locally for Tenable specifically, the deal sees Arrow deliver security solutions directly to mid-market and enterprise channel partners on both sides of the Tasman.

Arrow exclusively introduces Tenable Network Security to A/NZ channel
Examining the changing job scene in the Kiwi channel

Examining the changing job scene in the Kiwi channel

Typically, the New Year brings new opportunities for personnel within the Kiwi channel. 2017 started no differently, with a host of appointments, departures and reshuffles across vendor, distributor and reseller businesses. As a result, the job scene across New Zealand has changed - here’s a run down of who is working where in the year ahead…

Examining the changing job scene in the Kiwi channel
​What are the top 10 tech trends for New Zealand in 2017?

​What are the top 10 tech trends for New Zealand in 2017?

Digital Transformation (DX) has been a critical topic for business over the last few years and IDC is now predicting a step change as DX reaches macroeconomic levels. By 2020 a DX economy will emerge and it will become the core of what New Zealand industries focus on. From the board level through to the C-Suite, Kiwi organisations must be prepared to think and act digital when the DX economy emerges in 2017.

​What are the top 10 tech trends for New Zealand in 2017?
Show Comments