ARMs Race: Ampere Altra takes on the AWS Graviton2

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6 min read
fairly difficult
A comparison between the Ampere Altra and the AWS Graviton2, the two ARM Neoverse N1-based processors.
Over three years ago, we embraced the ARM ecosystem after evaluating the Qualcomm Centriq. The Centriq and its Falkor cores delivered a significant reduction in power consumption while maintaining a comparable performance against the processor that was powering our server fleet at the time. By the time we completed porting our software stack to be compatible with ARM, Qualcomm decided to exit the server business. Since then, we have been waiting for another server-grade ARM processor with hopes to improve our power efficiencies across our global network, which now spans more than 200 cities in over 100 countries.

ARM has introduced the Neoverse N1 platform, the blueprint for creating power-efficient processors licensed to institutions that can customize the original design to meet their specific requirements. Ampere licensed the Neoverse N1 platform to create the Ampere Altra, a processor that allows companies that own and manage their own fleet of servers, like ourselves, to take advantage of the expanding ARM ecosystem. We have been working with Ampere to determine whether Altra is the right processor to power our first generation of ARM edge servers.

The AWS Graviton2 is the only other Neoverse N1-based processor publicly accessible, but only made available through Amazon's cloud product portfolio. We wanted to understand the differences between the two, so we compared Ampere's single-socket server, named Mt. Snow, equipped with the Ampere Altra Q80-30 against an EC2 instance of the AWS Graviton2.

The Mt. Snow 1P server equipped with the Ampere Altra Q80-30

The Ampere Altra and AWS Graviton2 alike are based on the Neoverse N1 platform by ARM, manufactured on the TSMC 7nm process. The N1 reference core features an 11-stage out-of-order execution pipeline along with the following specifications in ARM nomenclature.

Pipeline Stage Width Fetch 4 instructions/cycle Decode 4 instructions/cycle Rename 4 Mops/cycle Dispatch 8 µops/cycle Issue 8 µops/cycle Commit 8…
Sung Park
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