MACOM X-Gene 3 32-Core ARM Chip To Challenge Intel Xeon Dominance In Servers

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Qualcomm isn’t the only manufacturer looking to cut into Intel’s seemingly insurmountable lead in the server chip market. We’re also seeing a challenge from lesser known MACOM, which is employing an ARM chip design that promises high performance (particularly in regards to memory bandwidth) with incredible efficiency.

MACOM’s X-Gene 3 is built using a 16nm FinFET manufacturing process, features 32 64-bit ARMv8-A cores running at 3GHz, supports 16 DIMMs via eight DDR4-2667 memory channels (up to 1TB of memory is supported) and 42 PCIE Gen 3 lanes. MACOM claims that the X-Gene 3, which is now shipping to select customers, is "the most powerful ARM CPU available today".

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One curious bit of wording from MACOM, however, is found in its press release. The company states that the X-Gene 3 “matches comparable x86 processors in CPU throughput, per-thread performance and power efficiency, while offering advantages in memory bandwidth and total cost of ownership.”

One of the key benefit of ARM architecture over x86 is inherent power efficiency, which could lead to some pretty impressive cost savings in the enterprise market. However, the fact that the X-Gene 3 simply “matches” the efficiency of competing x86-based chips from Intel may raise a few eyebrows.

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And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Qualcomm might take issue with any claims of ARM performance superiority or power efficiency. Qualcomm has been touting its Centriq 2400 family, which is available with up to 48 custom ARMv8 cores and is built on a more efficient 10nm FinFET process. Qualcomm also has the backing of some big guns in the industry, including Microsoft, which has developed a native ARM version of Windows Server to accommodate the Centriq 2400 series.

And for more traditional competitors to Intel, there’s also AMD’s new Zen-based Naples platform which will be available in up to 32-core/64-thread variants.