Ampere Altra 1P Server Pictured: GIGABYTE’s 2U with 80 Arm N1 Cores, PCIe 4.0 and CCIX

With the news of Apple moving to Arm SoCs replacing Intel in a few key products, and the success of the new Graviton2 SoC in Amazon’s Web Services, the news-o-sphere is awash with excitement about a new era of Arm-based computing. One of the companies looking to deploy Arm into the cloud is Ampere, with its new Altra and Altra Max compute processors.

We’ve covered Altra in some detail, with the aim to offer better-than-Graviton performance and functionality to hyperscalers that don’t have access to Graviton2 (because it’s an Amazon only chip). In June, the company launched its processor list, going from 24 cores all the way up to 80 cores running at 3.3 GHz for 250 W. This processor list is quite possibly the easiest-to-follow naming scheme of any processor list in recent memory. Alongside all those high-performance cores there are 128 PCIe 4.0 lanes, support for CCIX, eight channel DDR4-3200 memory, and a 128-core version coming early next year. It’s a shot well past Graviton, aimed squarely at Xeon and Epyc.

At the announcement of Altra, Ampere stated that it would be developing reference designs for Altra – a single socket called Mt. Snow, and a dual socket called Mt. Jade. GIGABYTE is the first OEM partner to showcase its single socket design, with a dedicated video on the product as part of the GIGABYTE Virtual Show 2020, which replaced its Computex plans.

The R272-P30 server is the Mt. Snow single socket 2U design, built upon GIGABYTE’s MP32-AR0 motherboard, which is an EATX form factor. The motherboard is laid out in order to improve server airflow with a transposed socket, which also helps with supporting all of the sixteen DDR4-3200 memory slots. The Altra socket is a rather substantial LGA4926 socket, indicating 4926 pins within the bracket, with the bracket held on by five Torx screws (EPYC uses three by comparison). Supporting the socket is an 8-phase server-grade power delivery, which seems minuscule by consumer standards but is probably overkill here.

The motherboard has two PCIe 4.0 x16 full-length slots and four PCIe 4.0 x8 full-length slots, plus another PCIe 4.0 x8 half-length slot. Management is through the popular Aspeed AST2500 BMC implementation, while onboard Ethernet uses a dual Intel I350 solution. There are four slimline U.2 ports, as well as eight min-SAS breakout headers and an OCP 2.0 PCIe 3.0 slot for add-in OCP solutions.

The server as presented by GIGABYTE had seven PCIe breakout cards installed, leading to 24x PCIe 4.0 NVMe x4 storage at the front of the chassis. Ultimately this solution is for a fast-storage cloud deployment, and is one of the first Altra-based servers that GIGABYTE is developing. Ampere is a key partner with NVIDIA in order to provide CUDA-on-Arm solutions, so we suspect a GPGPU variant might be in the works as well.

Ampere 1st Gen Altra ‘QuickSilver’
Product List
Q80-33803.3 GHz250 W128x G48 x 3200?
Q80-30803.0 GHz210 W128x G48 x 3200?
Q80-26802.6 GHz175 W128x G48 x 3200?
Q80-23802.3 GHz150 W128x G48 x 3200?
Q72-30723.0 GHz195 W128x G48 x 3200?
Q64-33643.3 GHz220 W128x G48 x 3200?
Q64-30643.0 GHz180 W128x G48 x 3200?
Q64-26642.6 GHz125 W128x G48 x 3200?
Q64-24642.4 GHz95 W128x G48 x 3200?
Q48-22482.2 GHz85 W128x G48 x 3200?
Q32-17*321.7 GHz58 W128x G48 x 3200?
Q32-17321.7 GHz45 W128x G48 x 3200?
*With 4 TiB DRAM Installed

Ampere recently announced that the first cloud instances on Altra were starting to come online, starting with Packet as part of the Early Access Program. Wider general availability is expected through the rest of the year. We’re already on the list for a review sample!


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