AppliedMicro has released specifications of their upcoming X-Gene SoC (Server-on-a-Chip this time, not System).

AppliedMicro X-Gene Specifications
Architecture ARMv8
Cores From 2 to up to 128
Frequency Up to 3GHz
Process TSMC 40/28nm
Power Usage Up to 2W per core

Above is a simple table showing the key specifications. ARMv8 is ARM's brand new architecture, which was announced on Thursday. ARMv8 brings 64-bit addressing to ARM architecture, which makes ARM a more attractive solution for server market. X-Gene is very scalable - core count ranges from two to up to 128, while the frequency is up to 3GHz (yes, even with 128 cores). AppliedMicro has chosen TSMC as the manufacturer of the SoCs and the process will be TSMC's 40nm and 28nm. 

X-Gene is a SoC, meaning that key server and network components are integrated onto the same chip. This is much cleaner approach when compared to for example Intel's, where you have several independent chips, such as the CPU(s) and chipset controller. X-Gene even has an integrated 10Gbit Ethernet controller, which should be a welcome addition for enterprises with a need for high-speed networking. Support for multi-chip configurations is also present, enabled by a 100Gbit/s interface (just for comparison, Intel's QPI is good for up to 204.8Gbit/s).

The biggest advantage of X-Gene is its power efficiency. At full load, the power usage is only 2 watts per core. When idling, the power usage is one fourth, 0.5 watts per core. For the 128-core chip at 3GHz, the power usage works out to be 256W, or 64W when idling. 256W may sound like a big number but it's actually on-par with for example two Intel X5680s, which are 130W each. And that is when excluding the power used by the chipset and other components, which are integrated into X-Gene. Of course, performance is a big question mark but if AppliedMicro's tests are to believe, X-Gene is up to three times faster than Intel's Sandy Bridge based E3 Xeons when looking at similar power profile. It should be noted these numbers are based on pre-silicon projections, so a lot can change before the final products hit the market. 

The scalability of X-Gene allows a broad suite of market-end applications. The low-end chips with only a couple of cores are suitable for more consumer-friendly devices like NASs and routers - whereas the chips with higher core count are ideal for more complex setups, such as data centers. The first samples of X-Gene are expected in the second half of 2012. 

Stay tuned for a more thorough analysis of this announcement!

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  • silverblue - Saturday, October 29, 2011 - link

    How long before one of them acquires an ARM licence?

    If AMD decides to adopt ARM, think of the number of AMD-badged ARM solutions that would be produced each month through GloFo and TSMC. What's more, with an architecture far closer to what we're seeing in most portable solutions, a shift to ARM might even create a new renaissance of easily ported software. Also, if GloFo goes into major production of ARM chips, it'd take far less time to produce chips as well as locate and fix problems than with the comparatively large x86/64 dies we're seeing. Intel would have to at least consider changing its plans, but neither Intel nor AMD would relish at the prospect of a huge amount of wasted money on their current and future plans and a switch to something else. Change can be very slow if change happens at all, and this would be a complete paradigm shift if x86 was thrown away after 33 years.

    Of course, I don't know what I'm talking about, so feel free to slap me aside the face if you disagree. :P

    I don't hate x86, but we can't keep using it forever. Perhaps Intel already has an ARM-esque architecture planned.
  • cfaalm - Saturday, October 29, 2011 - link

    For both AMD and Intel it would seem wise to have an ARM license on the side. My guess would be they are discussing this over lunch. Then again, there's such a wide and deep legacy in x86. Abandoning x86 will take longer than abandoning PATA or PCI and even those are not quite gone. I think both the ARM hardware and softwarebase has to mature to a certain point where manufacturers and customers alike can decide if there's still a future for x86 or if the two can happily coexist. The end of it is nowhere near.
  • Penti - Saturday, October 29, 2011 - link

    Intel has ARM licenses, Intel's wireless business (Ex Infineon maker of the popular X-gold baseband) still has licenses for new cores as well as old. Also app-processors. As well as all the licenses for their raid-processors that is ARM. ARM sold their own lineup off Application Processors to Marvell though. They are no newcomers.

    AMD had made products for ARM-environment like the GPUs driving Qualcomms chips and Broadcoms graphics processors, but they sold that off. Their complete chip (ATi) solutions was for MIPS though and AMD themselves has previously made several MIPS-variants that it has divested. Neither of the companies are strangers to SoCs, multimedia SoCs, Network SoCs and other embedded SoCs. But they would have no benefit from competing with the companies they sold their mobile IP off to.

    So don't treat them like x86 is all they know and have done. Both invested heavily in RISC in the 80's, Intels i960 and i860 never took off as a general processor. Intel Xscale was vastly popular in smartphones, consumer products and industrial products though. AMD began it's processor design with AMD 29K and they were used in a few mainframe and high-end/minicomputer projects as well as embedded designs and as well as was their basis for a 586/Pentium compatible processor. It's just totally history-less and clueless.

    Intel has little interest in ready made cores or their own ARM-designs today. They can just as well do x86 for SoC and embedded market. There is also lot of other things that needs to work in order to have a strong CE SoC. AMD does seem to have exited the low-power embedded market all together if you count out their AMD64-products. But they do seem to target consumer products. Porting is already done and financially supported by companies TI, Freescale, ST-E, STM, NXP, SHARP, Marvell, Samsung, Qualcomm, Broadcom, Atmel, Fujitsu, Renasas and others and Software companies like Intel through Wind River, IBM etc.
  • dcollins - Saturday, October 29, 2011 - link

    Any word of what type of memory these chips will support? A server with 128 cores is going to need a lot of memory. I'm also curious to see how well these ARM chips run virtualized workloads.

    This is an exciting time in the world of processors. After a few years of relative stagnation, competition is finally heating up. My the best chip(s) win!
  • nofumble62 - Sunday, October 30, 2011 - link

    ARM will be the new monopoly and the licensing fee will increase to everybody.

    Like a dog chasing its tail once again, hehe
  • Lucian Armasu - Friday, November 4, 2011 - link

    They'll have the monopoly for the base licenses which are very cheap. But there are a dozen or so ARM chip makers, so from a competition point of view, it's a whole lot better than the x86 market.
  • zhangqq - Monday, October 31, 2011 - link
  • nofumble62 - Tuesday, November 1, 2011 - link

    Intel will get there by the time ARM make first prototype, considering their core is many times more powerful than ARM. This is not good enough reason for people to switch.

    Also don't forget about the uncore and memory power will take up over half total system power. It will further dilute the core power advantage. Idle power is supposed to be good with Tri-gate. And Intel can employ the trick they used in mobile chip, just turn off part of the silicon.

    As ARM is pushing performance, they also suck more power. They don't have secret sauce.
  • Cerb - Thursday, November 3, 2011 - link

    A core many times more powerful than ARM's won't do much good. Just like the ARM, it will eat power with the uncore. For a given amount of work, both will be limited in performance by cache associativity and size, and main memory.

    ARM may not have a secret sauce, but neither does Intel, in this situation. These kinds of systems will be squarely aimed at market niches that want efficient distributed I/O, far more than they want CPU power. ARM and ARM vendors do have one advantage, however: being used to lower margins than Intel.
  • Lucian Armasu - Friday, November 4, 2011 - link

    According to this test here, at the same performance level, a 12-core Cortex A9 chip uses 5x less power than an Intel Quad Core Xeon chip:

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