AppliedMicro Shows World's First 64-bit ARM Processor
10/31/2011 by: John Oram
This week at ARM TechCon 2011, AppliedMicro announced "X-Gene" the world's first 64-bit ARM architecture compliant processor on an FPGA SoC (effectively a Server on a Chip, instead of System on Chip). AppliedMicro is targeting next-generation cloud computing, wireless infrastructure, enterprise networking, as well as storage and security applications. The X-Gene platform is designed with reliability, availability and serviceability (RAS) features required in the server space.
Mike Muller, ARM's CTO, said their new v8 architecture would consist of two main execution states: AArch64 and AArch32. AArch64 will introduce a new A64 for 64-bit processing instruction set. Muller said "ARM v8 architecture fully supports 32-bit ARMv7 software."
AppliedMicro's X-Gene Platform Architecture
The X-Gene multi-core will scale up to 128 cores in multiple multi-core processors and is targeted to operate at up to 3.0 GHz for a fraction of the power consumption and cost of existing solutions. AppliedMicro selected TSMC as its manufacturing partner to develop 64-bit ARM architecture Systems-on-Chip (SoC) on 40 nanometer (nm) and 28nm process technology. Rick Cassidy, President, TSMC North America, said: "We are pleased to be part of this success, and our collaboration marks another milestone in the relationship between AppliedMicro and TSMC." This approach is quite expected for new technology - AppliedMicro first wants to get solid base without unknown quirks of fresh manufacturing processes, and then scale it down aggressively.
Right sizing approach is the right way to go in aggressive market, says AppliedMicro
Vinay Ravuri, Vice President of AppliedMicro's Embedded and Processing Business Unit said during the introduction of their 64-bit FPGA platform: "The demonstration marks a fundamental achievement by AppliedMicro's engineering team to provide a proof of a single PMD core running both UBoot and 64-bit Linux. It also provides pre-silicon customer evaluation of our 64-bit ARM solution and paves the way for a more sustainable future of cloud computing as we leverage this architecture to provide high-performance devices that consume less power and lower costs compared to today's server chips."
During a conference call with Silicon Valley duo BSN* editor and principal analyst who spoke with Jim Johnston, Engineering Manager at AppliedMicro. Johnston said they started working with ARM in 2009 on v7 32-bit architecture and last year they jointly began development with ARM of the v8 64-bit architecture. Johnston explained that AppliedMicro's X-Gene FPGA has unparalleled single-thread performance, full CPU and I/O virtualization, and System-on-a-Chip (SoC) enabled glueless multi-processing, X-Gene will enable AppliedMicro to reduce server cost, power, and complexity by more than 50 percent.
World's 1st 64-bit ARM SoC Linux Boot
The sample demonstrated uses Flip-Chip Fine Pitch BGA packaging, but no pin count was specified. Today's sample FPGA has 300mili-watt (mW) in standby power consumption with up to 2W per core usage power consumption. A 16-core version would be running in the 35 watt power range. For the 128-core chip at 3GHz, the power usage would be closer to 256W, or 64W when idling. The 256W number may sound large. However, it is similar to what two Intel X5680s which are 130W for each processor package (with 6 cores each, 12M cache, and running at 3.3GHz). The X-Gene number is excluding the power used by the chipset and other components, which are integrated into the X-Gene SoC microarchitecture.
Performance shown by the very first silicon shows AppliedMicro's X-Gene outperforming Intel's Sandy Bridge
AppliedMicro's performance projections on pre-silicon are up to three times faster than Intel's Sandy Bridge based E3 Xeons with a similar power profile. Johnston said the developers evaluation platform will begin shipping 2Q 2012 with production shipping in 4Q 2012. He said the X-Gene SoC takes advantage of AppliedMicro's extensive experience in networking and has an integrated 10Gbit Ethernet controller on the SoC. Included in the platform architecture are full IO virtualization, advanced power management, data center bridging, and receiver side scaling.
X-Gene Platform Extensions
When asked about floating-point performance, Johnston said they were not ready to discuss specific shipping SoC's benchmarking expectations. However, by Spring 2012 BSN* readers can expect to see some comparison numbers to the other X86-based servers on the market.
AppliedMicro, ARM, TSMC, X-Gene, Intel, INTC, TechCon, X86, Sandy Bridge, SNB, x86-64, X5680, E3 Xeon, SoC, CPU, 10Gbit Ethernet, 10GbE, IO virtualization, I/O Virtualization, IOMMU, Flip-Chip Fine Pitch BGA, Flip Chip, microarchitecture, Silicon Valley, Rick Cassidy, Jim Johnston, Mike Muller, Vinay Ravuri
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