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Intel hits back at ARM with Avoton server chips

Chipmaker ramps up performance of its x86 SoCs for high-density servers
Wed Sep 04 2013, 17:30

CHIPMAKER Intel has announced its Atom C2000 family of server system on chip (SoC) processors, formerly known as Avoton, which target the relatively new but growing microserver segment of the industry.

The 22nm SoCs are the successor to the Atom S1200 Centerton chips and Intel claims they offer a substantial performance boost, fitting in up to eight Silvermont cores and running at higher clock speeds of up to 2.4GHz while operating in a power envelope between 6W and 20W.

In fact, Intel claims a performance level of 1.9x to 14x over its earlier Centerton parts, depending on the application.

But the new Atom C2000 SoCs are really aimed at countering ARM's plans to infiltrate the data centre, which is why Intel has moved so quickly to introduce Avoton when Centerton only launched at the end of 2012.

The chipmaker is thus keen to point up the advantages of the x86 server ecosystem, which has a vast library of operating systems, applications and middleware to back it up, when compared with the fledgling ARM server industry.

Intel has figures purporting to show an Atom C2750 outperforming the ARM based Calxeda ECX-1000 SoC by about 3.9 times in web performance benchmarks using PHP in a LAMP stack software configuration. Intel's Atom chip has eight cores compared to four for Calxeda and operates at a higher clock speed.

Each Avoton chip is designed in a modular fashion from blocks comprising a pair of Silvermont cores that share 1MB of L2 cache, while each core has its own 32KB data and 24KB instruction caches.

Each Intel Avoton chip can also support up to 64GB of DDR3 or DDR3L memory clocked at up to 1600MHz, which is connected to the CPU cores via a block known as the Silvermont System Agent that serves as a crossbar connect.

As SoC processors, the Atom C2000 family chips comprise more than just CPU cores, integrating 16 lanes of on-chip PCI Express (PCIe) interfaces, USB ports, Sata 2.0 and 3.0 controllers for storage, and four Ethernet controllers supporting either 1Gbps or 2.5Gbps.

All of this I/O is linked by an interconnect dubbed the Intel on-chip system fabric (IOSF), which is transparent to system software and presents the I/O as if it were a set of standard PCIe devices on the motherboard, according to Intel. This means that Avoton servers should be able to use existing software and drivers.

Vendors are expected to announce systems based on these new Intel Atom Avoton chips, including HP, which has already declared its intention to use the Avoton processors for its Moonshot servers when they become available. µ


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