AMD Shows Off ARM-Based Opteron A1100 Server Processor And Reference Motherboard

Subject: Processors | May 8, 2014 - 12:26 AM |
Tagged: TrustZone, server, seattle, PCI-E 3.0, opteron a1100, opteron, linux, Fedora, ddr4, ARMv8, arm, amd, 64-bit

AMD showed off its first ARM-based “Seattle” processor running on a reference platform motherboard at an event in San Francisco earlier this week. The new chip, which began sampling in March, is slated for general availability in Q4 2014. The “Seattle” processor will be officially labeled the AMD Opteron A1100.

During the press event, AMD demonstrated the Opteron A1100 running on a reference design motherboard (the Seattle Development Platform). The hardware was used to drive a LAMP software stack including an ARM optimized version of Linux based on RHEL, Apache 2.4.6, MySQL 5.5.35, and PHP 5.4.16. The server was then used to host a WordPress blog that included stream-able video.

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Of course, the hardware itself is the new and interesting bit and thanks to the event we now have quite a few details to share.

The Opteron A1100 features eight ARM Cortex-A57 cores clocked at 2.0 GHz (or higher). AMD has further packed in an integrated memory controller, TrustZone encryption hardware, and floating point and NEON video acceleration hardware. Like a true SoC, the Opteron A1100 supports 8 lanes of PCI-E 3.0, eight SATA III 6Gbps ports, and two 10GbE network connections.

The Seattle processor has a total of 4MB of L2 cache (each pair of cores shares 1MB of L2) and 8MB L3 cache that all eight cores share. The integrated memory controller supports DDR3 and DDR4 memory in SO-DIMM, unbuffered DIMM, and registered ECC RDIMM forms (only one type per motherboard) enabling the ARM-based platform to be used in a wide range of server environments (enterprise, SMB, and home servers et al).

AMD has stated that the upcoming Opteron A1100 processor delivers between two and four times the performance of the existing Opteron X series (which uses four x86 Jaguar cores clocked at 1.9 GHz). The A1100 has a 25W TDP and is manufactured by Global Foundries. Despite the slight increase in TDP versus the Opteron X series (the Opteron X2150 is a 22W part), AMD claims the increased performance results in notable improvements in compute/watt performance.

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AMD has engineered a reference motherboard though partners will also be able to provide customized solutions. The combination of reference motherboard and ARM-based Opteron A1100 is known at the Seattle Development Platform. This reference motherboard features four registered DDR3 DIMM slots for up to 128GB of memory, eight SATA 6Gbps ports, support for standard ATX power supplies, and multiple PCI-E connectors that can be configured to run as a single PCI-E 3.0 x8 slot or two PCI-E 3.0 x4 slots.

The Opteron A1100 is an interesting move from AMD that will target low power servers. the ARM-based server chip has an uphill battle in challenging x86-64 in this space, but the SoC does have several advantages in terms of compute performance per watt and overall cost. AMD has taken the SoC elements (integrated IO, memory, companion processor hardware) of the Opteron X series and its APUs in general, removed the graphics portion, and crammed in as many low power 64-bit ARM cores as possible. This configuration will have advantages over the Opteron X CPU+GPU APU when running applications that use multiple serial threads and can take advantage of large amounts of memory per node (up to 128GB). The A1100 should excel in serving up files and web pages or acting as a caching server where data can be held in memory for fast access.

I am looking forward to the launch as the 64-bit ARM architecture makes its first major inroads into the server market. The benchmarks, and ultimately software stack support, will determine how well it is received and if it ends up being a successful product for AMD, but at the very least it keeps Intel on its toes and offers up an alternative and competitive option.

Source: Tech Report

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May 8, 2014 | 03:16 AM - Posted by JohnGR

"Despite the slight increase in TDP versus the Opteron X series (the Opteron X2150 is a 22W part), AMD claims the increased performance results in notable improvements in compute/watt performance."

It must be confusing for AMD to promote one product it produces, over the other one.

May 8, 2014 | 09:18 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"compute/watt performance" is the metric that big data centers look at, as power usage and power bills can be/are a big part of the overall data center operating costs.

May 8, 2014 | 11:12 AM - Posted by JohnGR

Yes and the funny part is that Intel can take the above statement, sigh it as AMD and put it to it's own marketing campaign when comparing Xeons with Opterons.
That's the funny part.

May 8, 2014 | 11:58 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

No the funny part is when you price the Intel part, and that not too funny part of payment dew for parts supplied come into play. And what of IBM's power8 and its P/W and commodity prices once Samsung starts making Power8 based SKUs, along with Other companies that License the Power8 from IBM, and use GlobalFuondries to fab the parts! AMD could very well License the Power8 ISA, or refrence designs, and offer Power8 over that SeaMicro freedom fabric, along with GPGPU integration, Nvidia is doing just that with its GPGPU and IBM power8 for IBM's server products. Do you Know how powerfull the Power8 CPUs are, or have you not been reading about Open Power! Where do you think Samsung got its advanced 14nm process tech from in the first place, or Nvidia got its Nvlink from. IBM needs commodity pricing for its Power8 supplies, now that IBM is getting out of the chip fab business(except for research fabs), so IBM is seeding the fab market, and CPU server market with its advanced Fab, and power IP, to get those power8's at a commodity economy of scale price, and then offer IBM's proprietary OS and server software ecosystem with its lower commodity priced Power8 CPUs, everyone else will have access to the Power8 CPUs, but everyone else will be using Power8 on the Linux OS, IBM will not be shareing their main money maker(IBMs proprietary OS/ecosystem, its bread and butter). Power8 can eat Xeons for Lunch, and soon at low commodity licensed IP prices, like ARM based Licensed IP has done. IBM is doing the same thing with the Power8 IP/ISA as it did at the dawn of the PC era when it forced Intel to cross license the x86 16/32 bit ISA to AMD and others, IBM needed to assure itself a competitive supply of low cost x86 based parts for its Line of IBM PCs. IBM owns the Power IP/ISA but ther are no profits in simply CPU hardware, so IBM is getting out of the CPU hardware Business(except for research, and subbing the work out to an entire market, to obtain a competitive supply of low cost CPU parts. IBM's money is made with its OS/software/services ecosystem.

May 8, 2014 | 09:12 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Not if the new part gets AMD more server sales, Like if SeaMicro(owned by AMD) can sale more SeaMicro servers and some fat server/services contracts. There is more money in services than in hardware(hardware is a one time cost mostly, for 5 or more years before replacment, but services software, others, are a recurring source of revenue. The money in computers is in Software/services and it has always been that way, at least in the enterprise market where most servers are used. There will always be a need for high power CPUs for intense data analytics, but for web page serving ARM can be used, at least until AMD introduces its Custom ARMv8 ISA besed ARM products with HSA and GPGPU.
AMD should seriously consider licensing IBM's power8 processor ISA/IP for its SeaMicro server business, IBM through its Open Power foundation, is offering ARM Holdings' type of licensing options for Power8, and SeaMicro already sales servers with Xeon procesors, as well as AMD's own opteron SKUs, IBM's power8s(are not PowerPC) and are Xeon beating CPUs.

May 8, 2014 | 03:10 PM - Posted by drbaltazar (not verified)

This market isnt covered by any yet!ton of people need low watt server.when your source of energy is either not present or too costly to use (india)i bet this will be insanelly popular

July 17, 2014 | 03:08 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

great but wheres the real launch as in i can buy it, for what price in the uk total cost of a 1u etc, if i cant buy it its no good to me now, will they port freeNAS to it ?

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