Intel and AMD face an Arm’ed onslaught from this 96-core CPU monster

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Hot on the heels of Amazon’s Graviton2, Marvell has announced the launch of the ThunderX3, its third generation Arm server processor.

AnandTech’s Andrei Frumusanu reports that the chip, originally forged by a small startup called Cavium (subsequently acquired by Marvell), has capabilities shared by none of its big rivals.

The ThunderX3 is one of the very few processors that can do more than two threads per physical core. Its 96-core (a very high count for a general processor) offers up to 384 threads on a single socket, with custom-designed Arm v8.3+ cores and speeds that are likely to ramp up to 3GHz.

A server can support up to two sockets and a total of 16 DDR4 memory controllers. Comparisons published by Marvell showed that the TX3 can deliver a much higher performance per watt (up to 120%) than the competition, which in this case includes AMD’s older Rome Epyc and Intel’s Cascade Lake-SP Xeons.

The ThunderX3 is ideal for data centres, cloud computing giants, virtual desktop services and web hosting companies.

What does this mean for businesses? Essentially, greater compute performance for less money. Based on the performance/price metrics Amazon’s Graviton2 delivered, we expect Google and Microsoft to pay close attention to Altera and Marvell.

Unlike the x86 ecosystem, this technology will not trickle down to the B2C market. However, as new CPUs replace older models, the redundant kit usually ends up on eBay, like this 64-core Intel Xeon Phi 7210S on sale for $190.

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.