We wrote about ARM processors and the architecture itself more than once or twice. In particular, we tested the 80-core Ampere Altra processor, comparing it with AMD EPYC. Looking ahead – satisfied.
Now there is a new interesting system, which is worth talking about. Unfortunately, we did not test it, but its capabilities are not bad, so you can not ignore it. Perhaps in the near future we will try the board in action. We are talking about the Ampere Altra Dev Kit, which was released recently. Details are under the cut.
What kind of animal is this?
Project Ampere Altra Dev Kit developed and implemented by ADLINK. It has previously released a “developer platform” based on the chip mentioned above. Now there is another system for developers. According to the company representatives, this is a simple kit for ARM architecture enthusiasts. The new system is called Ampere Altra Dev Kit.
The board is fairly basic, with five PCI Express slots. Three of them received the x16 construct, and two more – x4. There is also a COM-HPC Server Type Size E module with an Ampere Altra processor socket and six DDR4 DIMM slots. As for the processor module, it supports processors of the Ampere Altra range – the number of cores can vary from 32 to 80. Well, the maximum amount of RAM can be 768 GB.
In addition to everything mentioned, the kit also includes a THSF-ALT-BL-S processor cooler, plus two heatsinks for the power circuits of the processor. Unfortunately, since the board is basic, it now does not have an Intel X710 network controller, as in the previous system. But on the other hand, there is a 1GbE connector and a dedicated port for remote control of the BMC, plus two M.2 slots for NVMe drives, four USB 3.2 ports and an RS-232 port.
• Computer-on-Module – COM-HPC Server Type E Size E Ampere Altra with Ampere Altra, 32 to 80 cores. This is a 64-bit Arm Neoverse N1 processor with core frequencies up to 1.7/2.2/2.6 GHz (32/ 64/80 cores, TPD: 60W to 175W), up to 768GB DDR4 ECC RAM.
• Board – COM-HPC Server Base
• Memory – 2x M.2 slot for NVMe SSD
• Video – VGA port
• Audio – 3.5 mm audio
• Network – 1x Gigabit Ethernet
• Expansion – 3x PCIe x16 slots, 2x PCIe x4 slots
• USB – 4x USB 3.2
• Serial – COM port (DB9)
• Management – 1x RJ45 port for BMC
• More – 12x GPIO, SMB, 2x I2C, GP_SPI and IPMB connectors
• Power Supply – ATX or 12V AT
• Size – Standard ATX board
Separately, it is worth noting the cost of the board. If the previous model cost as much as $4,000 in the base configuration, now the price starts at $2,000. Not cheap, but the price is still more sparing. And yes, the previous model now also costs not $4000, but $3250 in the basic configuration.
Here are more details about the cost of the platform:
• AADK Q32 – $2,003 for a system with a 32-core Ampere Altra processor.
• AADK Q64 – $2,518 for a system with a 64-core Ampere Altra processor.
• AADK Q80 – $2,621 for a system with an 80-core Ampere Altra processor.
Processor and architecture details
Just a few words about ARM. The architecture is interesting for several reasons at once:
• In recent years, ARM-architecture has been developing due to the mobile device driver.
• Most platforms (JVM, V8, PVM, etc.) have been ported to ARM.
• Large free software ecosystem fits well with ARM.
Open market processors are produced by Ampere and Huawei. By the way, AMD also tried to follow the trend, but so far has not been successful.
The chip discussed in the article is, of course, intended not for user PCs, but for server applications. The most promising areas are data analytics, artificial intelligence, databases, storage, telecommunications, edge computing, web hosting and cloud applications.
Chips from the Ampere Altra range have up to 80 cores with ARM v8.2+ architecture (with some improvements from the v8.3 and 8.4 sets), interconnected by the Arm CoreLink CMN-600 mesh bus. In addition, there is a developed system of caches. This is 64+64 KB L1, 1 MB L2 and up to 32 MB total L3. The memory subsystem has 8 DDR4-3200 channels (72-bit, 2DPC, up to 4 TB in total).
A feature of Altra is the lack of multithreading, which the manufacturer himself calls an advantage. The fact is that the rejection of SMT made it possible to reduce the level of power consumption – this is an indicator that is very important for the market for high-density server systems. Another reason cited is increased security.
And here are the results of our testing of this processor.
In single-threaded mode, the processor produces rather modest results (however, again, the results are not that far removed from AMD EPYC). But in multi-threaded leadership Ampere Altra is very confident.
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In general, the ARM-based platform is becoming more and more promising for high-performance computing. It is likely that in the near future the popularity of such systems will grow, and by the end of the year we will see a new growth graph in the use of server ARM systems, with an already much larger market share. But this is only a preliminary forecast, time will tell the real state of affairs.