Cavium Debuts ThunderX2, Touts Cloud Gains


By: R. Scott Raynovich

Chip company Cavium(CAVM), which is in the process of being subsumed by Marvell (MRVL), has announced the General Availability (GA) of ThunderX2, its next-generation Arm-based processors for data center, cloud, and high-performance compute (HPC) applications.

With the new release, Cavium is pointing to performance advantages over competing products from Intel's "Skylake" chipset. The single system on a chip (SOC) is targeted at high-end data centers looking for powerful server compute. The ThunderX2 operates at 2.5GHz, or 4.0 GHz in "turbo mode," and supports up to 32 cores per socket, which Cavium says increased the performance from the ThunderX by a factor of three.

Cavium officials stressed the memory performance of the ThunderX2, with its support for 8 memory controllers per socket. Cavium says its memory performance 246 GB/s vs. 200 GB/s on Intel's Xeon 8176 SoC.

"ThunderX 2 is directly competitive with the main installed base in the server space, the Intel Xeon Skylake Platinum 8176," says Larry Wikelius, vice president of software ecosystem and solutions at Cavium. "But our memory bandwidth is 246 GB/s vs. 200 GB/s on Intel. [This is important] in certain applications where memory becomes more important. This memory bandwidth and capacity is a significant advantage."

Cavium is also touting the growth of the Arm-based chip ecosystem. As an alternative service platform to Intel-based x86 chips, Arm processors are usually better at power efficiency consumes for many applications. Power is becoming and increasingly important part of the cost of running data centers.

Cavium says there is success is growing the demand for Arm-based chips in data centers. For example, Wikelius points out that Oracle recently moved to support Arm for its Linux 7 release. And Microsoft is brining Arm servers to its Azure cloud platform. Azure infrastructure is a big focus for Cavium.

Some technical highlights of the ThunderX (According to Cavium):

  • Single chip system on a chip (SoC) server CPU
  • Core and socket level performance comparable to highest end Xeon Skylake Platinum CPUs
  • Second generation of full custom Cavium Arm core
  • Quad Issue, Fully Out of Order
  • Full SMT support – 1, 2, 4 threads per core
  • Up to 2.5 GHz in normal mode, up to 3 GHz in Turbo mode
  • 3X single thread performance compared to ThunderX®
  • Up to 32 cores per socket delivering > 2.5-3X socket level performance compared to ThunderX
  • Cache:
  • 32 KB L1 instruction and data cache, 256KB L2 per core
  • 32 MB distributed L3 cache
  • Advanced server class RAS features covering memory, CPU, cache, CCPI2 and PCIe interfaces
  • Advanced power management
  • On-chip management engine for dynamic voltage and frequency scaling across the chip
  • Full Turbo mode support
  • Single and dual socket configuration support using 2nd generation of Cavium Coherent Interconnect with > 2.5X coherent bandwidth compared to ThunderX
  • System Memory
  • 8 DDR4 memory controllers per socket
  • Dual DIMM per memory controller, for a total of 16 DIMMs per socket
  • Up to 4 TB of memory in dual socket configuration
  • 33% higher memory bandwidth and memory capacity compared to Xeon Skylake Platinum CPUs
  • Flexible IO:
  • Integrated 56 lanes of PCIe Gen3 interfaces, x1, x4, x8 and x16 support, 14 integrated PCIe controllers
  • Integrated SATAv3, GPIOs, USB interfaces
  • 16% higher IO bandwidth compared to Xeon Skylake Platinum CPUs