Ampere Altra Announced - Offering Up To 80 Cores Per Socket
Written by Michael Larabel in Processors on 3 March 2020. Page 1 of 1. 33 Comments

Ampere Computing, the ARM server start-up founded by former Intel president Renee James and staffed by many former Intel folks, is today announcing Altra as their next-generation server processor. Ampere started off with the assets of AppliedMicro's X-Gene ARMv8 IP and that turned into the Ampere's eMAG as a decent entrant into the field two years ago. But now with more resources and engineering talent under their belt, they are now preparing to ship the Ampere Altra as up to 80 cores per socket and based on Arm's latest Neoverse N1.

The Ampere Altra is designed to tackle cloud workloads in particular but also other edge/server computing use-cases. Altra allows up to 80 cores, eight channel DDR4-3200 memory, a coherent mesh-based interconnect, and "leading" power per core. The Altra is manufactured on a TSMC 7nm process. The Altra with up to eighty CPU cores has a peak all-core turbo frequency of 3.0GHz. As mentioned already, the Altra is based on Arm's Neoverse N1 design and has the latest capabilities from ARMv8 features to machine learning inference additions like INT8 and FP16. The Altra will support up to 4TB of memory per socket.

Altra's I/O capabilities are also competitive with 128 PCIe Gen 4 lanes for 1P configurations and 192 PCIe lanes for dual socket servers. The Ampere Altra can also handle up to four CCIX accelerators.

Ampere has yet to publish much in the way of Altra benchmarks, but from one of the numbers they did disclose during the press briefing was that for SPEC int rate performance, the Altra was 4% faster than an AMD EPYC 7742 or 2.23x the Intel Xeon Platinum 8280. On a power efficiency basis with SPEC int rate they claim 1.14x the perf-per-Watt of the EPYC 7702 and 2.11x the perf-per-Watt of the Xeon Platinum 8276. But that was it for hard number benchmarks they disclosed in advance but said more will be coming out in time. The lack of a solid set of performance numbers is a bit concerning, but we're hopeful they are just being conservative and we will be able to show some independent performance numbers in due course. We are certainly eager to put the Ampere Altra through the paces on our side to see how it stacks up across a wide range of workloads against the AMD EPYC and Intel Xeon competition.

Pricing on the Altra wasn't disclosed during the brief but is said to deliver 41% higher performance/TCO over an AMD EPYC 7702 server or 63% higher performance/TCO over an Intel Xeon Gold 6238R.

Ampere is currently sampling single and dual socket Altra servers with the SoC configuration of 80 cores per processor. Smaller Altra variants will be coming in time.

During the call Ampere did reinforce that their next-gen "Mystique" platform is in development for release in 2021 while "Siryn" will follow that with expected release in 2022.

In terms of Linux/open-source support, Ampere has already been working on some elements of upstreaming the Altra support. For the compiler side support, using the Neoverse N1 target is their current recommendation and they also are working to upstream more Altra features into the Linux kernel. Altra should have broad Linux OS compatibility from Ubuntu to RHEL, SUSE, and all the other usual ARM Linux suspects. FreeBSD will also support the Ampere Altra platform.

Ampere Altra is certainly quite exciting at least from the information that was disclosed so far. We'll see how it performs if/when being able to get our hands on any Altra servers and will certainly be tracking the Linux/open-source progress.

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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.


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