AppliedMicro’s X-Gene 3 SoC Begins Sampling: A Step in ARM’s 2017 Server Ambitions

ARM-based servers in the data center are a lot like free beer, it always seems like you have to wait until tomorrow. Yet, unlike that mythical pint of the latter, we might be getting closer to the day when the former is a common reality. The first of many steps to make that happen is hardware. We’ve seen a few vendors making serious strides in the space. At the end of 2016, Qualcomm showed off their Centriq 2400-series SoC, with 48 cores on a single socket server.

Now AppliedMicro is ready to sample their X-Gene 3 ARM server SOC. As the name implies, this is the third iteration of the family, but has been substantially reengineered from its forebears. It now offers 32 cores running at 3.3 GHz, with 8 channels of DDR4 and 42 PCIE3 lanes. Impressively, the 3.3GHz running frequency is the full time power, AppliedMicro isn’t doing any kind of “turbo” engineering to hit that number. If all cores are needed at 100%, that’s what they’ll be running at. Makes me wonder if this will require any kind of exceptional cooling.

Benchmarks are in short supply right now, with a single white paper to go on. Based on that, the X-Gene 3 gets a per thread performance on SPECInt_Rate2006 roughly on par with an Intel Xeon E5v4 2680v4. It’s not top of the line but it’s no slouch either. Intel seems to really be leaving the door open on its data center dominance by keeping with its older Broadwell architecture. It’s allowing competition from AMD on the x86 front, and now there seem to be a hoard of ARM-based competitors at the gates. We’ll see if AppliedMicro gets any traction once these start to ship.

Johan De Gelas comments:

There has been a lot of recent movement in the ARM Server SoC space, with three major players. The third player, AppliedMicro, has been acquired by MACOM. MACOM has announced that the third generation 16-nanometer FinFET Server-on-a-Chip (SoC) solution, X-Gene 3, is sampling to “lead customers”. Despite all the products so far on ARMv8, the server world continues to mature and to move forward. 

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About the author

Rich Stroffolino

Rich has been a tech enthusiast since he first used the speech simulator on a Magnavox Odyssey². Current areas of interest include ZFS, the false hopes of memristors, and the oral history of Transmeta.

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