Prudence Pitch

10:55 03/12/2019 |

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Amazon’s cloud computing unit designs a second, more powerful generation of datacenter processor chip

(Tech) The new Amazon Web Services chip uses technology from SoftBank Group-owned Arm Holdings. One of the sources familiar with the matter said it will be at least 20% faster than Amazon’s first Arm-based chip, named Graviton, which was released last year as a low-cost option for easier computing tasks.



If Amazon Web Services’ chip efforts are successful, it could lessen the unit’s reliance on Intel and Advanced Micro Devices for server chips. An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on future products or services. Arm likewise declined to comment.

Cloud computing has become big business for datacenter chipmakers. Intel controls more than 90% of the server processor market, with AMD controlling most of the remainder. Intel’s datacenter group generated almost half of the company’s overall operating profit last year.

Chip designers using Arm technology want to challenge Intel’s dominance. Arm chips power mobile phones today. But several companies aim to make them suitable for datacenters, including startups run by former executives from Intel and Apple.

The new chip is not expected to be as powerful as Intel’s Cascade Lake or AMD’s Rome chips. Though less powerful, Arm chips are cheaper and consume less electricity than Intel’s top-end chips. Intel’s most powerful chips can cost several thousand dollars, while barebones Arm-based server chips can cost less than $1,000.

Amazon’s first Graviton chip used Arm’s older Cortex A72 technology. The forthcoming Amazon chip is expected to use newer Arm technology, most likely Arm’s Neoverse N1 technology, one of the sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. Another source familiar with the matter said the chip is expected to have at least 32 cores versus the Graviton’s 16.

The new chip will also use a technology called a “fabric” that will allow it to connect with other chips to speed up tasks like image recognition, one of the people familiar with the matter said. To take advantage of the new chip, cloud customers will likely need to use software written for Arm-based chips, which is less common than software for Intel and AMD chips.


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