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X-Gene 3 Up and Running

March 28, 2017

Author: Linley Gwennap

Macom has validated first silicon of its X-Gene 3 processor, achieving the highest performance yet measured on an ARM-compatible processor. The 32-core design is on track to meet previously announced frequency, feature, and schedule commitments with performance exceeding 500 SPECint. It’s now sampling to lead customers; production is expected by the end of this year.

X-Gene 3 will compete against Intel’s next-generation Xeon E5 processor known as Skylake-EP. We expect the ARM design to deliver performance similar to that of the mainstream Xeon E5 models that most data-center customers use, although it won’t match the top-end Skylake-EP models that list for thousands of dollars. X-Gene 3 will have some advantages, including greater memory bandwidth and integration. It also delivers strong per-thread performance, so it can handle some scale-up workloads as well as the scale-out applications traditionally assigned to ARM processors.

X-Gene 3 is the third ARM processor developed by AppliedMicro, which was recently acquired by Macom, a networking-chip vendor. Macom plans to sell off the X-Gene line while retaining AppliedMicro’s networking business. It expects to identify a buyer by the end of May and claims to have several interested parties. Whoever acquires X-Gene 3 will have a strong fighter in the battle against Intel.

The ARM-server ecosystem continues to develop well. A few years ago, no commercial Linux versions (distros) were available, but today, multiple vendors offer such distros as well as ARM-compatible BIOS. Microsoft recently announced plans to support its Windows Server operating system on ARM, at least for use in its data centers. X-Gene 3 is poised to take advantage of this momentum.

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