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AMD's 64-bit ARM server chip Seattle finally flies the coop ... but where will it call home?

AMD's 64-bit ARM server chip Seattle finally flies the coop ... but where will it call home?

Long-awaited CPU in body systems, SDN gear for momentarily

Chris Williams
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  • Arm,
  • Apple,
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AMD is at latest officially shipping its 64-bit ARM-based server chip, the Opteron A1100 aka Seattle. This wee beastie packs a load of networking and storage interfaces, and is seemingly eyeing up hyper-converged boxes in facts centers.

We've away into plenty of detail on the processor in the past, nevertheless to recap: it's a quad or octo-core ARM Cortex-A57 CPUCPU is the abbreviation for central processing unit The CPU is the brains of the computer where most calculations take place clocked at 1.7GHz or 2GHz, with up to 4MB of shared L2 cache, 8MB L3 cache, and interfaces for up to 128GB of ECC DDR3-1600 or DDR4-1866 RAM split over two channels.

For IO, it has 14 SATA3 ports, two 10Gbit Ethernet ports, and eight lanes of PCIe gen-3. It supports virtualization in hardware, includes the general ARM TrustZone, and sports a Cortex-A5 operation coprocessor to clout capacity usage and effect the gadget boots software that hasn't been tampered with by malware or miscreants.

All of this consumes no extended than 25W or 32W, depending on how manifold cores are in the system-on-chip.

Sleepless in Sunnyvale, California ... AMD's specs for Seattle (click to enlarge)

The A57s are bog-standard ARMv8-a cores; they haven't been customized for any specific application. Instead, AMD has focused on getting the genuine combine of IO interfaces in the silicon to attract info centre hardware makers. AMD is besides sticking with the 28nm A57, which was chosen and nailed in deposit before ARM came up with its 16nm FinFET A72, a faster and leaner Cortex sibling. The A72 - due to come in smartphones and mammoth tablets this year - benefits from various microarchitecture tweaks over the A57. For example, it has a larger department predictor that increases performance, a redesigned instruction cache, and other optimizations to breakthrough regulation execution throughput.

Liable Seattle was antecedent touted in early 2014, has been in sampling for many, lousy with months, and that it's instantly Jan 2016, we suspect California-based AMD blameless wanted the baggage away there before interest in its ARM silicon died down. The A72 will yet be there for ultimate components in the Opteron family. The A1100's A57-based designs carry been taped out, the silicon is rolling off the fabs, and there's no going back.

If you appetite a appliance powered by Seattle hold water now, peek inside a Softiron Overdrive3000 - a frame and check server for ARM-compatible enactment - or a software-defined storage box from Beaconworks. Caswell, Silver Lining Systems, and 96 Boards, are extremely selling A1100-powered gear. Interestingly, Silver Lining's origin convention AtGames Holdings acquired Calxeda's blueprints, and is using the technology to fabricate structure interconnects for A1100-powered servers.

Calxeda was a startup that tried to crack the counsel center marketplace with 32-bit ARMv7 CPUs, and failed in early 2014. The server nature is reliant on 64-bit inscription spaces these days, and Calxeda aloof couldn't prompt its 64-bit parts gone in time. The collapse helped deal a blow to confidence in the ARM architecture as a usage server-class competitor to Intel, which has 99 per cent of the news center bazaar sewn up.

While you'll gem group of ARM microcontrollers in concentrated guide electronics and other janitorial positions in information centers, you'll infrequently catch the architecture playing a starring role. If an ARM processorA processor is the logic circuitry that responds to and processes the basic instructions that drive a computer ever prospers in the humming racks of computers that aptitude our online world, it has to be doing something that IntelIntel designs and builds the essential technologies that serve as the foundation for the world's computing devicesIntel-processors is doing wrong.

AMD's senior employer of material center products Dan Bounds, and corporate veep Scott Aylor, told The Register they think they've got three ingredients that will fabricate the ARM architecture finally sing in servers: 64-bit mode, error-correcting decree (ECC) RAM, and a tipping site in developer and hardware vendor interest.

Stars aligning

64-bit resources way a larger, amassed comfortable direction extension for software requiring immense amounts of memory. ECC is a must for systems that cannot suffer any benign of arbitrary data corruption.

And as for developers, well, some are pondering if or not x86 is always the appropriate choice. Intel's architecture traditionally delivers the most bang for your buck: brawny Xeon cores always excite the career done - however what about single-threaded workloads that could be handled dependable as husky by a bantam army of lower-power cores? x86 murders ARM in a punch-up involving uncooked compute strength, but sometimes that's not solely what you need.

For example, Cardinal Hat, Suse, ENEA, and Linaro gain Linux ports and other software - largely storage controller software - lined up for accoutrement driven by A1100 processors. Ultimately, with exceeding and bounteous businesses stirring some or all their IT into the cloud, thus enchanting the nitty-gritty of hardware purchasing decisions elsewhere from executives, the ascendancy of Seattle may hinge on whether bulky cloud providers decide to applicability it. Will Amazon and Google engineers good buy a manipulate for AMD's chips, or are they destined for calling applications in private clouds only?

"We're seeing a fresh breed of platform developers who hunger to animation beyond basic virtualization and instead accomplish amusing matters with string systems, and produce things that are fluid," said Bounds.

"Companies at the bleeding borderline are the kingmakers - the managed hosting providers, the besides contemporary cloud hosters - and they are avid to cut risks and invest in inexperienced technologies."

Below are the machines AMD hopes its ARM Opteron will boast a home.

El Reg can easily think high-density hyper-converged gear - such as storage and web-facing apps, or storage and software physique systems, in one box - powered by burly ARMv8-a cores; appliances tuned for particular workloads.

Or possibly the outlook truly is rows and rows of generic x86 boxes running KVM on Linux.

PS: Trial outside the debate of Seattle by Timothy Prickett Morgan on our sister site, The Ensuing Platform.

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