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AMD Enlists ARM-based Seattle Chip in Server Processor War

AMD is planning a resurgence in server chips and the company is banking on energy-efficient ARM to help it bounce back.

Hinting at the toll that being a distant second place behind Intel is taking on the computer processor company, AMD disclosed on June 18 "its strategy and roadmap to recapture market share in enterprise and data center servers" in a statement. And that strategy involves the current tech darling of the mobile device space: ARM.

ARM-based chip designs dominate the smartphone and tablet markets, both of which have experienced explosive growth in recent years. A number of server makers and startups, including Calxeda, have been driving innovation in computing systems for cloud data centers by pressing ARM's energy-efficient tech into service.

Now AMD is signaling that it wants to help accelerate those efforts with the company's newly-unveiled server processor roadmap for 2014.

Next year, "AMD will set the bar in power-efficient server compute with the industry's premier ARM server CPU," boasted the company. That hope hinges on a processor codenamed "Seattle."

AMD ARM Seattle ServersRunning at an expected 2 GHz and up, Seattle processors will be based on the ARM Cortex-A57 core. AMD is planning an 8-core version for initial release, with a 16-core variant in the works. The system-on-a-chip (SoC) will incorporate offload engines for lowered power requirements and CPU overhead.

Seattle will provide AMD's chip portfolio a big bump, by offering two to four times the performance of the company's own Opteron X-Series processors and a better compute-per-watt ratings. And barring any surprises, "Seattle will be the industry's only 64-bit ARM-based server SoC from a proven server processor supplier," claimed AMD.

AMD will start production on Seattle processors in the second half of 2014.

Back in x86 land, the company unveiled "Berlin," a processor that will be offered in CPU and APU variants. AMD's APU (accelerated processing unit) consists of CPU and GPU (graphics processing unit) silicon on a single die.

Berlin will feature four "Steamroller" cores and "offer almost 8x the gigaflops-per-watt compared to the current AMD Opteron 6386SE processor," informed the company. The APU version will employ AMD's uniform memory access technology for the CPU and GPU called Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA). Berlin will ship in the first half of 2014.

Finally, AMD's successor to the Opteron 6300 series is called "Warsaw." Intended for two- and four-socket servers, it will offer an upgrade path for Operton 6300 owners with the benefit of improved performance-per-watt. Warshaw ships in the first quarter of 2014.

According to Andrew Feldman, general manager of AMD's Server Business Unit, the roadmap represents his company's targeted approach to computing workloads — one that is less reliant on general-purpose x86 server processors.

"Our strategy is to differentiate ourselves by using our unique IP to build server processors that are particularly well matched to a target workload and thereby drive down the total cost of owning servers," Feldman said in a statement.

"This strategy unfolds across both the enterprise and data centers and includes leveraging our graphics processing capabilities and embracing both x86 and ARM instruction sets," added Feldman.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at ServerWatch and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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This article was originally published on June 19, 2013
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