The former president of Intel, Renee James, has launched a fabless semiconductor company called Ampere, which aims at becoming an established player in the ARM-based server market. The company aims to tailor its SOC technology to meet the high energy demands of cloud computing goliaths such as Microsoft. Ampere is based in the heart of semiconductor innovation: Santa Clara, California, but also maintains operations in Portland, Oregon and overseas in Vietnam and India.
In a press release, officially taking the company out of stealth mode, James stated that” we have an opportunity with cloud computing to take a fresh approach with products that are built to address the new software ecosystem.” Ampere computing’s ARM-based server semiconductors are already being tested by Oracle, Microsoft, and Lenovo. When these cloud database mammoths were questioned about the new ARM-based product offering by Ampere, top executives seemed to be impressed with the company’s SoC high memory capacity and bandwidth per socket.
ARM-based Servers, originally developed by Applied Micro, have been a mainstay in mobile-based computing for many years, but now Ampere plans to use them to disrupt the cloud server industry which is heavily burdened with the cost of power needed to process the workload. Just because the ARM architecture is older doesn’t mean it’s automatically worse. Silicon Valley venture capital company, Carlyle Group has already hired 250 people to work on the project, which comes as a surprise to many hardware engineers who have seen private equity groups shy away from investing in new semiconductor companies. The high cost of developing and building semiconductors is generally what keeps venture capital funding from being put forth for such projects.
Digging into the roots of its ARM-based server technology, Ampere processors offer 32 ARM v8 64-bit server operating at up to 3.3 GHz of processing power, with 16 DIMM memory modules offering 1TB of memory at a power envelope of 125 watts. Ampere uses 8x DDR4 memory channels at 2667 MHz, which the company says can offer 33 percent higher capacity and bandwidth than competitors. One of the largest concerns for any cloud server architecture is security, and to build a more secured semiconductor Ampere is utilizing ARM Trusted Firmware.
Semiconductor Battle for Servers is On
Moreover, the huge consumer demand for cloud computing services is creating an ARM chip design market that is becoming more challenging, diverse, and competitive, not to mention adding many hardware design jobs. Qualcomm jumped on the ARM-based SoC market in late 2017 with its Centriq 24000 ARM silicon. Additionally, ARM technology has been nearly completely dominated in the data center area by Intel, which owns a respectable 95% of the market. The key to unlocking the emerging cloud application semiconductor market and growing revenue will be to design chips that can adequately address power management issues, and that also have embedded solutions that can handle multiple capabilities that data centers require.