Conclusion & End Remarks

We’ve been hearing about Arm in the server space for many years now, with many people claiming “it’s coming”; “it’ll be great”, only for the hype to fizzle out into relative disappointment once the performance of the chips was put under the microscope. Thankfully, this is not the case for the Graviton2: not only were Amazon and Arm able to deliver on all of their promises, but they've also hit it out of the park in terms of value against the incumbent x86 players.

The Graviton2 is the quintessential reference Neoverse N1 platform as envisioned by Arm, aiming for nothing less than disruption of the datacentre market and making Arm servers a competitive reality. The chip is not only  able to compete in terms of raw throughput thanks to its 64 physical cores in a single socket, but it also manages to showcase competitive single-thread performance, keeping in line with AMD and Intel systems in the market.

The Amazon chip isn’t perfect, we definitely would have wanted to see more L3 cache integrated into the mesh interconnect as the 32MB does seem quite mediocre for handling 64 cores, and the chip does suffer from this aspect in terms of its performance scaling in memory heavy workloads. Only Amazon knows if this is a real-world bottleneck for the chip and the kind of workloads that are typical in the cloud.

Performance wise, there’s a big empty outline of an elephant in the room that's been missing from our data today, and that’s AMD’s new EPYC2 Rome processors. AMD has showed it had been able to vastly scale performance and do away with a lot of the limitations presented by the first generation EPYC processors that we saw today. Even if we can somewhat estimate the performance that Rome would represent against the Graviton2, we don’t have any idea of what kind of pricing Amazon will be launching the new c5a type instances at.

In terms of value, the Graviton2 seemingly ends up with top grades and puts the competition to shame. This aspect not only will be due to the Graviton2’s performance and efficiency, but also due to the fact that suddenly Amazon is now vertically integrated for its EC2 hardware platforms. If you’re an EC2 customer today, and unless you’re tied to x86 for whatever reason, you’d be stupid not to switch over to Graviton2 instances once they become available, as the cost savings will be significant.

What does this mean for non-Amazon users? Well the Arm server has become a reality, and companies such as Ampere and their new Altra server chips are trying to quickly follow up with the same recipe as the Graviton2 and offer similar ready-made meals for the non-Amazons of the world. These chips however will have to compete with AMD’s Rome, and later in the year the new Milan, which won’t be easy. Meanwhile Intel doesn’t seem to be a likely competitor in the short term while they’re attempting to resolve their issues.

Long-term, things are looking bright for the Arm ecosystem. Arm themselves are aiming to maintain a yearly 20-25% compound annual growth rate for performance, and Ampere already stated they’re looking for yearly hardware refreshes. We don’t know Amazon’s plans, but I imagine it’ll be similar, if not skipping some generations. Around the 2022 timeframe we should see Matterhorn-based products, Arm’s new Very Large™ CPU microarchitecture which should again accelerate things dramatically. In a similar sense, the newly founded Nuvia has lofty goals for their entrance into the datacentre market, and they do have the design talent with a track record to possibly deliver, in a few years’ time.

The Graviton2 is a great product, and we’re looking forward to see more such successful designs from the Arm ecosystem.

Cost Analysis - An x86 Massacre
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  • eastcoast_pete - Tuesday, March 10, 2020 - link

    While I am currently not in the market for such cloud computing services aside from maybe some video processing, I for one welcome the arrival of a competitive non-x86 solution! Can only make life better and cheaper when and if I do. Also, ARM N1 arch lighting a fire under the x86 makers in their easy chairs will keep AMD and Intel on their feet, and that advance will filter down to my future desktops and laptops.
  • eastcoast_pete - Tuesday, March 10, 2020 - link

    Thanks Andrei! Just out of curiosity, that "noisy neighbor" behavior you saw on the Xeon? I know it's mostly speculation, but would you expect this if someone is running AVX512 on neighboring cores? AVX512 is very powerful if applications can make use of it, but things get very toasty fast. Care to speculate?
  • willgart - Tuesday, March 10, 2020 - link

    where are the real life benchmarks???
    video encoding / decoding ?
    database performance ?
    web performance ?
    https encryption ?
  • The_Assimilator - Thursday, March 12, 2020 - link

    Agreed 100%. Without figures of actual real-world applications compiled with actual real-world compilers handling actual real-world workloads, this essentially amounts to an advertorial for Amazon, Graviton2 and Arm.
  • Danvelopment - Wednesday, March 11, 2020 - link

    This may sound stupid as I'm just getting into AWS as backup throughput for local servers on my web project that releases April.

    "If you’re an EC2 customer today, and unless you’re tied to x86 for whatever reason, you’d be stupid not to switch over to Graviton2 instances once they become available, as the cost savings will be significant."

    How do you know whether what you're using is Intel, AMD or Graviton(1/2)? (I'm using T2s right now with no weighting and if our release gets hit hard, will give it weight and and increase its capacity).

    As they're not actually doing anything, then I'd have no issue switching over, but can't tell what I'm on.
  • CampGareth - Wednesday, March 11, 2020 - link

    There's a list here:

    If you're on T2 instances you're on Intel chips at the moment.
  • Quantumz0d - Wednesday, March 11, 2020 - link

    No real benchmark. Another SPEC Whiteknighting. I see the AT forums Apple CPU thread being getting creamed over this again.

    ARM is a lockdown POS. You can't even buy them in this case. Altera CPU didn't even came to STH for comparision where it had so many cores against x86 parts. You cannot get them running majority of the consumer workload. One can claim Power from IBM has SMT8 and first Gen4 and all but if its not consumer centric it won't generate much of profit.

    Author seems to love ARM for some reason and hate x86. Its been since Apple articles but in real time we saw how iPhone gets decimated in speed comparison against Android Flagships running the stone age Qualcomm. We have seen this ARM dethroning x86 numerous times and failed. I hope this also fails, a non standard CPU leaves all fun out of equation. And needs emulation for consumer use which slows down performance.

    People want to see all the workloads. Not SPEC. Also where is EPYC Rome comparision Nowhere. Soon Milan is going to hit. Glad that AMD is alive. This stupid ARM BGA dumpster should be dead in its infancy.
  • Wilco1 - Wednesday, March 11, 2020 - link

    LOL - someone feels extremely threatened by Arm servers...

    Mission accomplished!
  • anonomouse - Wednesday, March 11, 2020 - link

    Well that was bizarrely incoherent. What workloads would you want to see instead? Nothing else you wrote made any sense or had any facts behind it.
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Wednesday, March 11, 2020 - link

    He's been doing it for the last year or two, ignore it.

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