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Centriq Aces Scale-Out Performance

November 21, 2017

Author: Tom R. Halfhill

Qualcomm has its head in the clouds, but in a good way. Early benchmarking indicates its new Centriq server processors deliver excellent scale-out performance for cloud applications and data centers. Although the company’s ARMv8-compatible CPUs can’t match the per-core throughput of the best x86 CPUs, they rank high in throughput per thread, per watt, per dollar, and per square millimeter of silicon. These metrics translate into bargain prices for competitive performance and power consumption—and a strong debut for a newcomer to the nearly impregnable server-processor market.

The Centriq 2400 family (code-named Amberwing) initially comprises three models based on the same die: the 48-core 2460, the 46-core 2542, and the 40-core 2434. Clock frequencies hover within a narrow range (2.2–2.3GHz base, 2.5–2.6GHz turbo), as do the power ratings (110–120W TDP). List pricing, however, varies from $1,995 to a surprisingly low $888—posing a credible challenge to Intel and AMD in view of Centriq’s competitive SPEC scores.

One observation is that Centriq offers relatively little differentiation within the family. Indeed, we suspect most customers will bypass the 48-core 2460 in favor of the 46-core 2452, which delivers 97% of the performance for only 69% of the price. And the 46- and 40-core chips differ in throughput by only 13%. The low-end 2434 offers a phenomenal deal in performance per dollar. Although Centriq falls short of the highest-end AMD and Intel products in peak performance, it matches well against mainstream models.

Centriq chips are shipping in limited volume this quarter and are ramping production. That Qualcomm is underpricing Xeon Scalable processors is no surprise, but Centriq also offers a good deal when compared with AMD’s low-priced Epyc processors. With a smaller hardware and software ecosystem behind them, ARM server chips must offer potential customers a bargain.

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