Datacenter Trends

Ampere Launches Its First ARM-Based Datacenter Processors

With its rapid growth, partnership with Lenovo and aggressive roadmap, the startup is taking direct aim at CEO Renee James' former company, Intel.

Ampere, the buzz-generating startup led by former Intel president Renee James, has announced the availability of its first product: an ARM-based processor for datacenters.

Part of the company's eMAG product family, the new processor is based on Armv8-A 64-bit architecture, and built on the 16nm process by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC).

There's a 16-core and 32-core version available. The 32-core version has been clocked at up to 3.3GHz in Turbo mode. The chip supports up to eight DDR4-2667 memory controllers and eight PCIe controllers, for a total of 42 lanes for bandwidth I/O.

The eMAG processor is based on the X-Gene architecture originally developed by AppliedMicro. That tech was sold to Macom in 2016, and then acquired by the Carlyle Group -- the private investment firm backing Ampere -- in 2017. Along with the IP, Ampere acquired the AppliedMicro server development team, which the company says is the reason it has been moving so quickly with its product release schedule.

The company is billing eMAG as a platform that "represents a completely new, processor architecture tailored for the emerging growth of cloud computing and next-generation datacenters." As a platform, eMAG provides "a quick and out-of-box experience to get started with the deployment of any desired workload on the hardware platform."

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Ampere, which emerged from stealth mode earlier this year, has been growing fast. It now employs nearly 400 people and already has a partnership with Chinese vendor Lenovo to build new server platforms based on the eMAG.

"Together with Ampere, we will deliver a new generation of servers designed specifically with these customers in mind, providing the leadership quality, consistency and value they've come to expect from Lenovo," said Paul Ju, vice president and general manager of hyperscale technologies at Lenovo Data Center Group, in a statement.

Ampere also unveiled its product roadmap, which includes a 2019 release of its next-generation product on 7nm with multi-socket and single-socket options.

"We have made tremendous progress since our launch eight months ago, continuing to execute on our first- and second-generation products," James said in a statement. "More importantly, we are ahead of schedule on building out a robust, multi-product roadmap that meets the performance and features demanded by the cloud computing ecosystem."

James is taking aim at a market dominated by her previous company, Intel, and its x86-based processors with the type of power-efficient processors used in the world's smartphones. On its Web site, Ampere points to a SPECint benchmark performance test, which showed that Ampere's eMAG processor can deliver about twice the performance of the Intel Xeon Gold 6130 processor at roughly the same price.

The 32-core eMAG processor is available for $850; the 16-cores version is priced at $550.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].


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