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Amazon's custom Graviton ARM processor was almost an AMD offering

Can Graviton really compete with Xeon?

Amazon's custom Graviton ARM processor was almost an AMD offering

Amazon's custom Graviton ARM processor was almost an AMD offering

The server market has been dominated by Intel for quite some time, leading the world's leading server providers to become dissatisfied with today's product offerings. 

Without any major competition within this market, Intel's server processors have been able to justify increasingly high margins in recent years, leaving companies like Microsoft and Amazon concerned about their reliance on Chipzilla to supply their growing data center demands. 

Since the release of Zen, AMD has been able to compete with Intel in the x86 server market, but Amazon was not willing to bet on AMD alone. Amazon has invested in ARM computing, hoping to compete with the likes on Intel with their home-grown chip offerings. 

This is where Amazon's Graviton processor comes in, a sixteen core processor that is based on ARM Cortex-A72 processing cores that are clocked at 2.3GHz. The only real downsides to Amazon's designs is that the Cortex-A72 is designed primarily for high-end smartphones, making it unlikely to be competitive with any of AMD/Intel's high-end x86 products. 

Strangely enough, The Register has also shed some light on Amazon's older ARM server plans, with their sources claiming that AMD's ARM-based Opteron A1100 series processors were designed specifically for Amazon's cloud efforts. Sadly, these plans never came to pass and "AMD failed at meeting all the performance milestones Amazon set out."

AMD's Opteron A1100 was revealed in early 2016 and offered up to eight Cortex-A57 CPU cores, making it significantly weaker than Amazon's Graviton processors, though it must be noted that almost three years have passed since then. AMD's ARM processor was codenamed "Seattle", the city where Amazon is headquartered.    

Amazon's ARM processors come from the Annapurna Labs, which was acquired by Amazon back in 2015, with Amazon planning to develop more ARM processors, which could potentially power more than just light server applications. Amazon's efforts will also help improve other aspects of the ARM server ecosystem, especially on the software side. 

Amazon's custom Graviton ARM processor was almost an AMD offering(AMD's ARM-based Opteron A1100 processor)


With the recent shortages of Intel processors, Amazon has more reason than ever to explore other options, with their home-grown ARM efforts and the emergence of AMD's Zen-based EPYC processors offering the cloud computing giant a great opportunity to decrease their reliance on Intel. 

Today, Amazon is already offering cheaper AWS instances to customers when using AMD's EPYC series processors, showcasing the benefits of a competitive marketplace in the world of server CPUs. 

Will Amazon's efforts finally allow ARM to take off in the server market? You can join the discussion on Amazon's Graviton processors and their ARM efforts with AMD on the OC3D Forums

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Most Recent Comments

28-11-2018, 08:45:42

looz
Interesting that they're going with their own 2.3GHz CPUs when Qualcomm has had server grade 2.5GHz ARM for a year as well.Quote

28-11-2018, 09:27:23

WYP
Quote:
Originally Posted by looz View Post
Interesting that they're going with their own 2.3GHz CPUs when Qualcomm has had server grade 2.5GHz ARM for a year as well.
Haven't read up on Qualcomm's server stuff for a while, but wasn't their stuff not a little insane with the core count? 48 or something like that?

Amazon's offering is a 16-core, so it seems like they didn't want to start with a huge/expensive chip design like Qualcomm's chip. Perhaps they want to start with lower-end servers and work their way up.Quote

28-11-2018, 10:10:20

looz
46 yeah. But density makes sense in Amazon's use case.Quote

28-11-2018, 11:45:47

tgrech
I'm not sure it does make sense, these are rented out on a per CPU basis. You can buy an instance with 1 CPU + 2GB RAM, 2C+4G, and so on upto 16CPU+32GB, with a set cost per hour per CPU. Essentially, each CPU in the SoC needs dedicated headroom in terms of memory, bandwidth and thermal envelope to operate relatively independantly of a completely separate instance on the same SoC. Qualcomms 48 cores however are 6 clusters of 4 duplex's, each containing 2 cores, with much more focus on thread coherency rather than isolation(Though both are necessary for both architectures, just in different ways with different sacrifices).

We don't know the intricacies of Amazon's core & cache architecture yet but from the sounds of it this SoC is pretty specialised for this task of virtual CPU instancing, whereas Qualcomms is more of a general datacenter chip.Quote
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