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AMD unwraps 64-bit ARM 'Seattle' server chip

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Opteron A1100 "Seattle" is Advanced Micro Devices' (AMD) first System on a Chip (SoC) that contains an ARM CPU. Seattle has no less than eight ARMv8 ISA of 64 bits, Cortex A57 cores. If availability would not be an issue, this could just be the first Cortex A57 CPU to enter not only the server market but also any types of market. The company is already considering to follow it up in 2015 with a version that has lower power and has pin compatibility with another x86 CPU. Being an architecture licensee, AMD plans to leverage in 2016 by shipping K12 which features a fully custom CPU design based on ARMv8 ISA.

ARM chips are found mostly in mobile devices and would still have to prove their usability in servers. The idea of using low-power processors for a variety of applications such as cloud and Web-hosting  continues to attract a wider approval. The company's ARM server chips are designed to work their way through dense servers and run their applications with power-saving options.

"There are more and more of those applications that are showing up in big data centers," said Sean White, an engineer at AMD. "They don't want traditional high-end...database type workloads."

Currently, there are no 64-bit ARM servers that have been shipped yet. The company said that its chips will start landing in servers towards the end of the year. As the use of ARM server increases, it will make the usage model appear clearer. With the company's architectural flexibility, it can easily tweak chips in order to meet the specific customer demands. AMD had already displayed such capacity with the latest game consoles of Sony and Microsoft.

"If you want to customize an SoC to exactly what you want, or to put on a piece of your 'intellectual property,' you can do that in here," said White.

Since the A1100 is a SoC, it directly integrates IO into the single chip as opposed to integrating to an off-chip IO hub. The integrated components would include UART, SPI, I2C, 8 lanes of Gen3 PCI-Express (supporting 4x/2x/2x, 4x/4x, and 8x), one 10/100/1000 Ethernet port, a duo of 10 Gbit Ethernet ports (10GBASE-KR), and 8 SATA 3 ports (6Gb/s). The inclusion of 8 SATA3 ports and the 2x10 Gbit Ethernet ports seemed interesting as it gives a preview on how the company plans to position the Opteron A1100 Seattle on the market.

The shipping of a reference board that features the Seattle processor is now available to select customers who are interested to write and test applications.

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