Cavium’s ThunderX2 (Fig. 1) SoC brings up to 54 Arm Cortex-A cores to public and private cloud server platforms. It more than doubles the performance of its predecessor. Cavium uses its own, 64-bit cores based on ARM's ARMv8-A architecture. The custom core uses a multi-issue, out-of-order (OOO) architecture that runs at 2.4 to 2.8 GHz in normal mode and 3 GHz in turbo mode. The latest crop of chips uses 14-nm FinFET transistors. ThunderX2 is fully compliant with ARM’s Server Base System Architecture (SBSA) standard.
Each core has a 64 Kbyte instruction cache and a 40 Kbyte data cache. The chip has a shared 32 Mbyte last level cache (LLC). There are six DDR4 memory controllers per socket, with each handling a pair of DIMMs for a total of 23 DIMMs per chip. Glueless dual socket configurations can take advantage of the Cavium Coherent Interconnect, which has 2.5 times the bandwidth of the ThunderX. A dual socket system supports up to 3 Tbytes of DRAM.
The system delivers a range of high speed I/O. For storage there are multiple SATA V3 interfaces. The PCI Express (PCIe) Gene 3 handles x1, x4, x8 and x16 links. The PCIe support provides access to GPUs such as NVidia's Tesla P100 platform. On the network side, the system tops out at 100 Gigabit Ethernet. It also supports 10, 25, 40, and 50 Gbit Ethernet. The networking support is augmented with OCTEON-style packet parsing, shaping, lookup, QoS, and forwarding hardware acceleration. There is a Virtual Switch (vSwitch) offload system as well as virtualized interface support, plus NITROX V security support.
The ThunderX2 will deliver a range of configurations targeting specific workloads. These include:
- ThunderX2_CP: a compute platform optimized for private and public clouds, web serving, web caching, web search, and commercial HPC workloads. It includes network, vSwitch, and PCIe support.
- ThunderX2_ST: a version that includes SATA v3 support and is optimized for big data, cloud storage, and massively parallel processing (MPP) databases.
- ThunderX2_SC: a configuration that targets secure web front-end, security appliances, and C-RAN (cloud-ratio access networks)-type workloads. It has network, PCIe, and hardware acceleration, including NITROX security support.
- ThunderX2_NT: is a networking platform optimized for media servers, scale-out embedded applications, and NFV type workloads. It supports multiple 10/25/40/50/100 Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, in addition to the OCTEON-style hardware accelerators for packet parsing, shaping, lookup, QoS, and forwarding.
Cavium is looking to deliver the full cloud data center (Fig. 2), starting with the ThunderX family compute platform. The workload processor will now be the ThunderX2. This includes its own Xpliant Flexible 3.2T Switch.
The 64-bit ARM solutions have been nipping at the heels of the x86-64 herd for a while. ThunderX2 ups the ante, delivering more cores to cloud applications. There is a wide range of applications that benefit more from a greater number of low power cores, rather than having the fastest core.
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