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ThunderX3’s Cloudburst of Threads

April 14, 2020

Author: Tom R. Halfhill

Marvell is on the verge of sampling its third-generation ThunderX server processor—an Arm-compatible chip that crams up to 96 CPUs and 384 threads per socket. The new ThunderX3 targets high-performance computing, cloud-based Android gaming, and scale-out applications in cloud data centers. In per-core and per-thread power efficiency, it surpasses all other Arm server processors as well as the best x86 chips. It’s scheduled to sample this quarter, and we estimate volume production will start in 1Q21.

Some ThunderX3 models will have fewer CPUs, but all derive from the 96-core design. TSMC will fabricate them in the same 7nm FinFET technology that some other server-processor vendors employ for their latest products. The base clock frequency remains 2.2GHz, but the maximum turbo speed rises 20% to 3.0GHz. Because the biggest ThunderX2 has only 32 CPUs, tripling the core count in one generation raises the bar to a whole new level.

ThunderX3 also enhances the custom CPUs. They implement the 64-bit Arm v8.3 instruction-set architecture and execute at least 25% more instructions per cycle (IPC) than the previous generation’s Arm v8.1–compatible CPUs, according to Marvell. At their maximum boost speed, single-thread performance rises more than 60%, the company says. Internal benchmarking indicates a 96-core ThunderX3 system will deliver about 3x more integer throughput and about 5x more floating-point throughput than the 32-core ThunderX2.

A dual-socket ThunderX3 system musters 192 cores and 768 threads, surpassing any other dual-socket server on these metrics. Competitors have time to introduce new products before Marvell achieves volume production next year; we expect ThunderX3 to compete with Intel’s future Ice Lake server processors and AMD’s upcoming Milan. Nevertheless, ThunderX3 sets a high-water mark for multithreading and power efficiency that rivals will find hard to beat.

Subscribers can view the full article in the Microprocessor Report.

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