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Ampere Maxes Out at 128 Cores

July 21, 2020

Author: Bob Wheeler

Startup Ampere Computing seeks to leapfrog incumbent Marvell in Arm-based server processors, but the x86 architecture still dominates the server-processor market. Shortly after sampling its first Altra processor, Ampere disclosed its 128-core Altra Max, scheduled to sample in 4Q20. It also revealed it taped out a 5nm test chip in preparation for its “Siryn” next-generation design, which should sample next year. Finally, the startup provided more details of the first Altra lineup.

Ampere specified 11 initial Altra versions scaling from 32 cores at 45W TDP to 80 cores at 250W TDP. The former offers a modest 1.7GHz clock speed to minimize power dissipation, whereas the latter boasts 3.3GHz. In between the extremes, customers can choose an 80-core 2.6GHz version at 150W and a 64-core 3.3GHz version at 220W. All 11 models have the same L3-cache size, DRAM channels, PCIe lanes, and 2S support.

Packing 128 cores in 7nm, Altra Max will be socket compatible with the first Altra design. The new chip pushes Arm’s Neoverse N1 architecture to its limit; the CMN-600 interconnect handles up to 128 cores. Half of the chip’s PCIe lanes support CCIX for intersocket or accelerator connections. A fully configured two-socket (2S) system will have 256 cores, 16 DDR4-3200 channels, and 192 PCIe Gen4 lanes; 4x16 CCIX lanes connect the processors.

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