Ampere Takes On Intel With its ARM-Based Server Processor

Silicon Valley-based Ampere introduced two versions of its first ARM-based 64-bit server processor featuring its Ampere eMAG processors for data centers. Currently, Intel dominates this arena with 99 percent of the market using its x86-based processors. According to Ampere chief executive Renee James, a former Intel president, customers can order the chip — which is aimed at hyperscale cloud and edge computing, using ARMv8-A cores — from the company website. The Carlyle Group backs Ampere, which has 400 employees.

VentureBeat reports that, “James hopes to take on Intel with the ARM architecture used in the world’s smartphones, which is known for its efficiency in providing performance at very low power levels.” According to Ampere, its eMAG processor “can deliver about twice the performance of the Intel Xeon Gold 6130 processor at about the same price,” based on the SPECint benchmark performance.

Ampere’s eMAG, says VB, is “about three times better at performance per dollar compared to Intel’s Xeon D processors,” with a 32-core, 3.3 Ghz performance eMAG priced at $850 and 16-core at 3.3 GHz at $550. The company is “also designing its next product to use 7-nanometer manufacturing with multi-socket and single-socket options for 2019.”

Ampere, which hasn’t yet announced customers, “is partnering with world-class original device manufacturers and original equipment manufacturers (that is, big computer makers).”

“The Ampere eMAG Arm-based SoCs and roadmap are well aligned with the demanding cost and performance requirements of hyperscale cloud computing customers,” said Arm senior vice president/general manager of infrastructure business Drew Henry. “This underscores the accelerated pace of innovation and broad workload support that infrastructure customers should expect to see from the Arm ecosystem.”

With regard to lowering the total cost of ownership, Ampere “designed its cores, which feature eight DDR4-2667 memory controllers, 42 lanes of PCIe 3.0 for high bandwidth I/O, 125W TDP for maximum power efficiency, and a 16-nanometer FinFET manufacturing process at contract manufacturer TSMC.”

Executives at TSMC and Oracle have expressed support for Ampere’s first generation of products and “aggressive roadmap.” Applied Micro and Advanced Micro Devices made their own failed attempts to build 64-bit ARM server chips a few years ago. The Carlyle Group acquired Applied Micro’s ARM CPU division from Macom in 2017, and James left her position as an operating executive at the Group to become its chief executive.

Other industry leaders at Ampere include chief architect Atiq Bajwa, who formerly held that position at Intel, and senior fellow Greg Favor, who was formerly chip architect at AMD.