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Ampere Reboots X-Gene as eMAG

February 20, 2018

Author: Linley Gwennap

Ampere Computing is now sampling its eMAG server processor, formerly known as X-Gene 3. The processor, along with its development team, bounced from AppliedMicro to Macom to Denver Holdings before emerging from Ampere. Renee James, a former Intel executive, leads the new company as it takes the third-generation ARMv8 product into cloud data centers. The company estimates eMAG’s list price will be $950 when it reaches production in 2H18.

Building her team, James has already coaxed two former Intel engineering leaders out of retirement. Rohit Vidwans is head of Ampere’s hardware-engineering team after having led the development of Atom processors at Intel. Atiq Bajwa, now Ampere’s chief architect, was director of microarchitecture during his 30-year Intel career. The two are building a design team in Oregon, but the remaining ex-AppliedMicro development team resides in Silicon Valley (and Asia). The privately held company employs well over 300 people and is growing quickly.

The eMAG processor features 32 ARMv8 CPU cores with eight DRAM channels and 42 PCI Express 3.0 lanes. TSMC builds it in 16nm FinFET technology. The project is now more than six months behind schedule after delays caused by the transitions from AppliedMicro, where it was originally developed, to Ampere. The company is currently spinning the silicon to fix some performance bugs and achieve production certification. The chip still targets 500 SPECint_rate2006 at a 125W TDP, but the company can’t verify this performance until it receives the final silicon.

The new design offers clear advantages over the Xeon Scalable processors in performance per watt, performance per dollar, and memory bandwidth. But it’s one of many vying for attention from data-center operators. Although eMAG gets Ampere into the game, the company needs a strong next-generation effort to start a winning streak.

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