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Faster Datacenter Chip Reportedly Coming from AWS

Amazon Web Services (AWS), the industry-leading cloud computing unit of retail giant Amazon, has designed a new datacenter processor that will be at least 20 percent faster than its predecessor, sources told Reuters last week.

Based on Arm's Neoverse N1 micro-architecture, the new processor will integrate as many as 32 cores, Reuters said, while also announcing it's expected to use fabric technology to connect with other chips and speed up tasks, such as image recognition.

The company's investment in a second Arm-based chip advances its custom silicon strategy and further reduces its reliance on Intel and AMD server chips.

AWS launched its first home-grown chip, called Graviton, last year at its AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas. Based on the Cortex-A72 micro-architecture, the Graviton chips were created by Annapurna Labs, an Israel-based system-on-a-chip designer that AWS acquired in 2015. Annapurna also developed two generations of Nitro ASICs that run networking and storage tasks in AWS datacenters. A1 instances were the first EC2 instances powered by the Graviton chips.

There has been no official announcement of the new, as-yet-unnamed AWS processor, and AWS is keeping the release date under wraps. The company did not respond to our requests for comment at press time.

British chip designer Arm Holdings was acquired in 2016 by Japanese multinational telecom corporation Softbank Group. Since then, Arm, which is well-established in the mobile and embedded device markets, has become a serious contender in the datacenter server space -- in no small part because of its "de-verticalized" ecosystem, AWS Vice President James Hamilton observed in a blog post on the Graviton release last year.

"Arm does the processor design, but they license the processor to companies that integrate the design in their silicon, rather than actually producing the processor themselves," he wrote. "This enables a diverse set of silicon producers, including Amazon, to innovate and specialize chips for different purposes, while taking advantage of the extensive Arm software and tooling ecosystem."

The result of this model, he added, is "innovation and competition at every layer of the Arm ecosystem from design, through silicon foundry, packaging, board manufacturing, all the way through to finished hardware systems and the system software that runs on top."

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of Converge360.com sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at jwaters@converge360.com.


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