ARM splits its Neoverse datacentre server chip designs
The company launched its first Neoverse core, the N1, last year, which in a 7nm process saw a 60 percent performance boost over the previous Cortex-A72. The N1 has been used for multiple datacentre server chip designs, including Amazon’s Graviton 2. Altran and NXP have also used for core for the next generation Layerscape 5G network processors.
Now it is splitting the line with the successor N2, codenamed Perseus, and the V1, codenamed Zeus, the company’s first scalar vector processor for high performance server designs. This has even more significance with the proposed acquisition of ARM by Nvidia with a focus on the data centre alongside GPU cores.
“The emergence of ARM in the data centre is powered by many factors, all built on performance,” said Chris Bergey, general manager of the ARM infrastructure business. “We started with a power performance message and this didn’t resonate – we had a performance gap to close.”
“The N2 Perseus we expect to offer 40 percent higher performance over N1 with the same area and power efficiency for scale out cloud, smartNIC and edge devices,” he said.
The V series will be optimised for higher performance than N2, with larger buffers, cache, windows and queues that allow a single thread to execute faster. It will also support two 256bit vector instructions for high performance computing (HPC), cloud computing and AI. SiPearl and the European ExaScale project are planning to use the cores in high performance system-on-chip designs for supercomputers.
This will support scalar vector extensions (SVE) with full control over voltage and frequency transitions when moving between linear and vector instructions. “This has run at full frequency with SVE code and transition seamlessly between memory register widths for helper code,” said Bergey.
The split gives developers a choice, says Berger. With the N2, a 42U rack in a data centre with a 25kW power supply can run significantly more thread throughput and the cloud provider can host more customers per rack and the customer gets better performance per core, he says. This could have up to 192 cores in a chip with a thermal profile (TDP) of 350W in teh data centre, or smaller core counts for edge and network applications.
“There’s a powerful story for 5G and edge computing where there are even more constraints on power. The defining characteristic is an equal focus on performance, power and area, whether that’s a 250W cloud SoC or 20W 5G basestation SoC,” he said.
V1 would have less cores but optimised for 40 percent higher performance than N2. “What we see is customers have a TDP to optimise around, going from air cooling to liquid cooling have different cost profiles so really it’s about the balance of TDP and computing performance, which is the thing with V1 vs N2. That kind of customisation is really interesting to the ecosystem,” said Bergey. “About 36 cores of V1 would be the high end of cooling.”
The IP will be launched later this year with more technical details on the architectures, and designs are progressing on TSMC 7nm and 5nm processes.
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