Ampere teases ‘Arm-compliant’ homebrew cores that deprecate instructions clouds don’t need

Ampere has revealed that it has developed its own “Arm-compliant” compute core that it will begin to manufacture in 2022 and hopes will eventually challenge Intel’s Xeon and AMD’s EPYC in the cloud.

CTO and chief architect Atiq Bajwa on Wednesday said that the company has built “an Arm-compliant core that deprecated optional features that are not relevant to cloud.”

“We selectively optimised instructions based on their prevalence for data centre workloads,” he said, adding: “And we optimised performance and power for cloud environments, not laptops or phones.”

And that was just about all he said, other than that chips using the cores will be built with a 5nm process and handle more bandwidth and offer more cores than rivals.

Bajwa spoke at a company strategy event (video here if you have a high tolerance for insincere corporate language) at which Ampere revealed that Microsoft is a user of its 80-core Altra silicon and Chinese web giant Tencent is curious about the product. Oracle also spoke – as it would given it’s invested in Ampere and is a known user of its products.

Also revealed: the company plans 2021 shipping for the Altra Max CPU that The Register yesterday revealed would ship in ten variants running at up to 3GHZ. Ampere has now published a data sheet [PDF] revealing that the Altra Max has variants with 96, 112 and 128 cores, based on Armv8.2+.

CEO Renee James said the company’s product plans are predicated on a belief that hyperscale customers want silicon tuned for microservices, and therefore able to run many small workloads in parallel without any core’s workload slowing its neighbours. James thinks delivering on that promise will satisfy cloudy customers and that the Arm architecture’s power-sipping ways will also attract their attention.

Our sibling publication The Next Platform interviewed James ahead of the launch. But neither James nor Ampere’s other execs offered any detail on how the company will package its own cores, or what “Arm-compliant” entails.

It would clearly be folly for “Arm-compliant” to exclude software written for the platform, as even hyperscalers would surely balk at having to get into heavy software customisation unless new silicon promised a quantum leap in performance.

And while Ampere’s language about its future products was effusive, execs stopped well short of promising massive change. All involved did, however, suggest that topping x86 performance is just-about in the bag and all that remains is for cloudy customers to wake up the fact and propel Ampere to glory. ®

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