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Arm Serves Up Neoverse N1

February 26, 2019

Author: Linley Gwennap

Arm is upping its server game with the Neoverse N1. The first CPU under this new brand heralds the next phase in the company’s years-long effort to take on Intel in the lucrative market for server and infrastructure processors. The N1 supports the larger applications and greater reliability that these customers demand. In addition to the new CPU, the company offers all the intellectual-property (IP) cores necessary to build high-performance processors that scale to 64 cores and beyond.

Despite the new brand, the N1 is similar to the recent Cortex-A76 smartphone CPU. It primarily upgrades the memory subsystem, enlarging the caches and improving the prefetcher. The new design also improves error handling and performance monitoring. The company expects customers will be able to combine 64 of the CPUs on a processor chip having a TDP of just 105W, about the same as a 14-core Xeon Gold 5120. Arm expects its 64-core design to achieve more than double the 5120’s SPECint performance and even outrun the 22-core Gold 6152. But the N1 still lags in single-thread performance by at least 30%.

In year nine of its server efforts, Arm achieved modest progress. Amazon recently created a 16-core Arm server processor, Graviton, which it offers as an AWS “instance” to cloud customers. It hasn’t indicated that it uses Graviton for its own services, though. Huawei developed the Kunpeng 920, a 64-core processor based on its own Arm-compatible CPU that it will sell in servers later this year. The first two Arm-based supercomputers, employing Marvell ThunderX2 chips, are operational at the Sandia and Los Alamos national labs; boasting two petaflops, the Sandia system ranks among the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers. VMware and other popular server software is now available on Arm.

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