Ampere Debuts High-Performance 80-Core ARM-Based Chip

Ampere introduced the industry’s first-ever 80-core ARM-based 64-bit server processor — the Ampere Altra processor — for use in cloud and edge computing data centers. The move puts the company in direct competition with Intel and Advanced Micro Devices. Intel currently has 95.5 percent of the server chip market, with AMD taking the rest. The Ampere Altra, which runs on 210 watts, is aimed at artificial intelligence, cloud-native applications, data analytics, database, edge computing, storage, telco stacks and web hosting.

VentureBeat reports that, to compete with Intel and AMD, “Ampere is targeting power-efficient, high-performance, and high-memory capacity features.” According to Ampere chief executive Renee James, who was formerly president of Intel, “the chip is faster than a 64-core AMD Epyc processor and Intel’s 28-core high-end Xeon ‘Cascade Lake’ chip.”

“We’ve got the most cores in the market,” she said, adding that the chip is “now in the hands of some of the industry’s largest cloud providers.”

Ampere Altra received “supportive statements” from Oracle, Canonical, VMware, Kinvolk, Packet, Lenovo, Gigabyte, Wiwynn, and Micron, with Microsoft Azure engineer Leendert van Doorn stating that it “helps bolster hyperscale data center processing around power efficiency, resiliency, telemetry, and security.”

At ARM, IP Products Group president Rene Haas said that Altra, based on the ARM Neoverse N1 platform, is a “breakthrough in performance and power efficiency for hyperscale computing.” Ampere is also utilizing TSMC’s 7-nanometer process technology, in which “the chip circuits are seven billionths of a meter wide.”

Ampere senior vice president of products Jeff Wittich said that the new chips were “designed to provide the features that are increasingly demanded by customers and specifically optimized for cloud usage.” He’s referring to the fact that, “the way the cloud utilizes performance, security, and power efficiency is much different from more traditional enterprise data center environments,” and that power consumption is a “growing challenge for all modern data centers, especially those operating at hyperscale.”

Data centers currently use 3 percent of the world’s electricity, a figure predicted to rise to 11 percent by 2030. Ampere stated that the processor’s “single-threaded cores, and the dense, power-efficient servers they make possible, will enable customers to maximize the number of services they can deploy in the cloud and at the edge.”

Wittich also reported that the Ampere Altra is “14 percent better than AMD’s fastest Epyc chip on power efficiency and 4 percent faster on raw performance … and it was 2.11 times better than Intel’s rival chip on power efficiency and 2.23 times better in raw performance.” “We knew we needed to go higher than 64 cores,” he added, noting that the company is now developing another product, codenamed Mystique that will “push the core count higher.”