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Tuesday, 12 August 2014 12:14

AMD will do custom ARM server chips

Written by Nick Farrell


 
We told you so

As we expected AMD will make custom ARM server chips for customers, much as it made custom chips for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 game consoles.

According to Sean White, an engineer at AMD, during a presentation at the Hot Chips conference in Cupertino, California, his outfit 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.

ARM chips are unproven in servers but the low-power processors have Web-hosting and cloud uses. 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 centres,” White said. “They don’t want traditional high-end... database type workloads.”

AMD does seem to think that there is more mileage in providing customised chips for those who want a SOC something specific or include some unique IP. He provided the example of possibly customising I/O and ports for specific customers. 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.

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 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.

It will give ARM processors is ECC memory, which is important in servers to correct data errors. The 32-bit ARM processors did not have ECC memory. Each Seattle CPU will support up to 128GB of memory, totaling up to 1TB for the eight CPU cores on the Opteron A1100. The 32-bit ARM chips supported only up to 4GB of memory.

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