Server evolution. Supercycle 2022

Server AMD

Compared to the current generation Milan, we expect a twofold increase in transistor density, a performance increase of at least 25%, and a twofold improvement in energy efficiency. The next generation of Bergamo server processors (128 cores) will run on the same socket.

The core of the new generation of Zen 4 is support for both the new PCIe 5.0 bus, the new DDR5 memory, and CXL technology (see below). Presumably, it will be possible to hang on these CPUs 12TB RAM DDR5 per socket.

As for the GPU, AMD will also release a series Instinct MI200 – an advanced accelerator for data centers and supercomputers, aka world’s first MCM GPU (that is, a multi-chip GPU module). Works in tandem with EPYC processors.

Intel is moving in roughly the same direction. The TDP of processors is gradually approaching the 500W mark, and the number of CPU cores is slowly catching up with the GPU. This year will see the release of a new generation of Xeon processors, codenamed Sapphire Rapids. Here is the same set: DDR5 memory, PCIe bus and CXL 1.1. Plus a new processor interconnect Ultra Path Interconnect (UPI). Among other innovations – new AMX instruction set (Advanced Matrix Extensions) for hardware-accelerated AI learning.

Humiliation of Intel

New accelerator

Xe-HPC Ponte Vecchio

so important to Intel that it ordered TSMC to manufacture it using the world’s most advanced 5nm process. One can imagine how humiliating this is for Intel, which for several decades considered itself a world leader in the production of microelectronics.

100 billion transistors, 1024 cores, 408 MB L2 cache make Ponte Vecchio one of the most complex and largest GPUs in the world.

By the way, discrete video cards for gamers and miners will be released on the same Xe-Core cores Intel Arc.

Games of 2022 with support for XeSS technology (Arc graphics cards), a source

The first one is Intel Arc Alchemist on a chip A370M (performance level GTX 1660 or higher).

Intel Arc Alchemist graphics card

In general, this is not the first entry of Intel into discrete video cards. For example, in the 90s, companies like Diamond and 3DLabs issued cards based on the Intel 740 chipset. Of course, they couldn’t compete in performance with the undisputed leader – the legendary 3Dfx Voodoo accelerator, although they cost a lot of money at that time: up to $80 and even $90 for a top-end card with 8 MB of memory.

Diamond video card based on Intel 740 chipset

128-core ARM

Returning to the processor market, there are also some analogies with the 90s. As then, two took the lead: AMD and Intel, but the third player is breathing in their back. A quarter of a century ago it was Cyrix, and now it is a family of ARM processors from different manufacturers.

Server ARMs for their own use are made by Amazon, Google, Huawei and other market giants. However, there are companies that have a completely different business model. For example, Ampere with 128-core processors Altra Max M128-30.

These CPUs are available to the public at a modest price of $5800, which, in terms of core or power efficiency, is much more profitable than many x86 server CPUs.

Altra Max M128-30

In some benchmarks they look good too:

DDR5 memory

The amount of RAM on servers has crossed the 1 terabyte mark, and sometimes memory performance becomes a bottleneck. Even at a peak speed of 200 GB/s, the operation


for a terabyte of DDR4 it will take five seconds.

Fortunately, DDR5 comes to the rescue. In January 2022, DDR5 memory prices fell hard after the Alder Lake hype in December. Of course, this plays into the hands of server builders.

The new generation of memory means new motherboards and CPUs. Upgrading from DDR4 to DDR5 will bring speedups up to 2.63x (in MT/s) and a fourfold increase in density/volume from 16Gbps to 64Gbps, as shown in the chart below.

In practice, this is an increase in clock speed to 4.8 GHz, and DIMMs will grow to 256 GB.

With the replacement of motherboards and processors, support for the new generation of PCIe (see below), there is a “supercycle”. Although it is likely that due to a shortage of components, it may be delayed until 2023, but these are details.

The amount of memory per server will soon exceed ten terabytes. The energy efficiency of computing will increase significantly. The cost of small instances will be even closer to zero.

Today DDR5 is already working in MacBook Pro with M1 Max processors. They were the first where we can see the exchange rate with 400 GB / s memory. This upgrade affects all applications.

PCIe 5.0

This year will be the year of migrating to PCIe 5.0, and PCIe 6.0 (PCIe Gen6) is on the horizon. In January 2022, the PCIe 6.0 specifications were

officially approved


The new bus generation doubles the data transfer rate per lane compared to PCIe 5.0. This is now 8 GB/s per lane (x1) in each direction, so for x16 channels it rises to 128 GB/s per direction. According to experts, the first hardware with PCIe 6.0 support will appear at the end of 2022. And in a few years, the bus will go to desktops.

At the same time, PCIe 6.0 with the transition to pulse amplitude modulation PAM4 (Pulse-Amplitude Modulation 4) instead of NRZ – the biggest upgrade in the history of the PCI Express standard, judging by the number of innovations in signaling and encoding methods.

Comparison of NRZ and PAM4, a source

The entire server architecture is built on the new generation of PCIe 5.0 (and later 6.0). That is, in the end it increase in performance of all computer subsystems:

  • data storage;
  • networks/interconnects;
  • accelerators;
  • processors.

CXL – lemon juice for sandwiches

Interestingly, the PCI Express bus has always been considered a bottleneck in high-performance systems, so supercomputers and some data centers are trying to replace or expand it. For example, in 2014 IBM offered an interface

Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface

(CAPI) over PCIe, but it didn’t take off.

There were other suggestions as well. There are now high hopes for Compute Express Link (CXL) over PCIe Gen5. They say that behind this interconnect – the future of servers.

To explain CXL, there is culinary example. Let’s say we want to make a lemon taco. We have a lot of stuffed corn tortillas, that is, ready-made tacos (processors), and separate lemon wedges (RAM).

In a standard memory management system, we don’t have enough RAM for all the CPUs: some tacos come with a lemon, while others don’t.

But if you squeeze a lemon, then there will be enough syrup for all sandwiches (tacos): this role is played by the CXL interface, which distributes RAM to all processors.

For this purpose, CXL memory expansion modules of the type CXL Memory Expander.

First on the market CXL Memory Expander released May 11, 2021

Sounds like marketing bullshit, but CXL really works.

New SSD Form Factors

Most SSD manufacturers have not mastered PCIe 4.0 yet, but this year they will start upgrading systems already to PCIe 5.0, so SSD PCIe 5.0

expected by the end of the year

. In particular,

ADATA prototype

with the Silicon Motion SM2508 controller, it showed a read speed of 14 GB / s and a write of 12 GB / s – this is about twice as high as the top modern PCIe 4.0 SSDs like the Samsung 980 Pro.

World’s first PCIe 5.0 SSD (ADATA)

By the way, now SSDs are produced in a variety of formats, up to U.2 boxes the size of SATA 2.5 “hard drives (there are special plastic expanders to insert an SSD into a 3.5” slot).

Variety of SSD Form Factors

But no one forces you to make the drive case so big. After all, M.2 is both the fastest and the cheapest connector: no extra cables and cases. Probably, an M.2 SSD with a PCIe 4.0 interface will soon become a standard even in the mass market.

WD Black SN770one of the first mass market PCIe 4.0 SSDs

It seems that from 2022, the super-cycles of iron upgrades will go faster than before. In the previous decade, the industry was literally stuck on the old PCIe Gen3 standard. For a long time there was no revolution in almost anything: the CPU, GPU, memory seemed to be frozen. Now it’s a completely different matter.

What are your thoughts on this?

A UFO flew in and left promo codes here for our blog readers:

15% for all VDS tariffs (except for the Heating tariff) — HABRFIRSTVDS.

20% off AMD Ryzen and Intel Core Dedicated Servers HABRFIRSTDEDIC.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply