One of the critical elements to all these new server-class Arm processors is availability. We are not yet at the point where these chips are freely sold on the open market: anyone who wants to use them needs to buy a server (or a rack of servers), or rent a cloud instance. One of the benefits of x86 in this space is that users can write code for x86 servers on other easily accessible hardware, then port it up to the big server iron. Well now it seems that one of the Arm licencees playing in the server space has a workstation based product in the hands of distributors ready for software developers to cut their teeth on the hardware.

Over at Avantek, the Ampere eMAG 64-bit Arm Workstation is a single socket workstation design offered in an XL-ATX chassis with up to 512 GB of DDR4-2666 as well as an NVMe drive and some SATA ports. There are onboard video outputs from the IPMI interface, or a PCIe 3.0 x8 expansion slot could add in something else (assuming drivers are available).

The workstation is only offered with a single CPU SKU, the eMAG 8180. This isn’t to be confused with Intel’s 8180: this one has more cores! The eMAG 8180 is a 32-core design running at 2.8 GHz with a turbo up to 3.0 GHz, with a TDP of 125 W. This is a first generation eMAG, which uses the old AppliedMicro Skylark microarchitecture, a custom design of Arm v8 with 32 MB of L3, 42 PCIe lanes, and eight memory channels.


Official eMAG 8180 specifications - note the frequency here is higher.
It looks like the workstation has decreased clocks

Avantek offers the system with three optional graphics cards: AMD FirePro W2100, a Radeon Pro WX 5100, and the NVIDIA Quadro GV100. OS options are variants of Linux: Ubuntu, CentOS, SUSE SLES, and openSUSE.

The base configuration requires the user to select at least a 240 GB SSD and 1x8GB of DRAM, which means a super low (!) price of $2,794.50 for the base model. Users who want a chassis with a window and LED lighting will need to shell out an extra $108, because it isn’t a proper workstation with LEDs, right?! A more sensible configuration with the W2100, 64 GB of DRAM, and 4x256GB of SSDs, comes to $4044.60. Validated purchasers can leave a review – so far none have been left. Perhaps we should ask for one for review.

Source: Avantek

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  • HardwareDufus - Friday, December 6, 2019 - link

    This would be a very interesting review. You should request one. Especially if you approach it as a developer platform and don't go nuts criticizing its IPC etc in relation to XEONs and EPYC in server duty. Reply
  • extide - Friday, December 6, 2019 - link

    Oh but please do this would be a rather unique opportunity to see some specint/fp comparisons between the two platforms... Reply
  • jospoortvliet - Friday, December 6, 2019 - link

    Sadly it is the last gen... not that impressive I would expect. Reply
  • rahvin - Monday, December 9, 2019 - link

    There hasn't been an impressive ARM server grade CPU produced yet. Reply
  • Wilco1 - Monday, December 9, 2019 - link

    Besides ThunderX2, Neoverse N1, A64FX you mean? Each of these beat whatever Intel has. Reply
  • voiceofunreason - Wednesday, December 11, 2019 - link

    Much as I too might want ARM to be a viable competitor in the server space don't let that blind you to its faults: single threaded performance is still way behind x86 (yes, even on servers single thread performance still matters if you care about latency).

    The only place ARM definitively "beats whatever Intel has" is in cost/core. But even then, when heavy effort has gone into x86 optimisation it looks even worse for ARM (eg x264 encoding on a 96 core ThunderX is bested by a 4 core Ryzen 3 1300). It doesn't matter if ARM is theoretically capable of more, I'm going take the software ecosystem as it is right now when looking at TCO.
    Reply
  • ameliajessi - Monday, December 9, 2019 - link

    Sounds good, I feel so good to read this review about latest arm server CPU looking dashing. I am doing working to sale coins online and my website https://rpseitzancientcoins.com/ has huge data so for this I am thinking to buy a server PC maybe I will buy this one arm server CPU. Reply
  • ProDigit - Saturday, December 14, 2019 - link

    You're much better off, buying 2 Xeon E5 2650L V2 systems.
    Both of them are running 75% performance of Ampere's single CPU, at 120% of the power consumption.
    While those numbers may seem large, you'll get 40 threads at 1,9Ghz instead of 32 threads at 3Ghz; and your electric bill will be $20 more expensive per year.
    But the purchase cost of a xeon E5 2650L V2 is only $60, and a Chinese motherboard that supports it, goes for $80-100. DDR3 is also much cheaper.
    You'll pocket $1.5-2k at the initial purchase easily!
    It'll be hard to justify buying ampere; and if you need extra computing power, just add a few more Xeon systems.
    Reply
  • GreenReaper - Friday, December 6, 2019 - link

    To be honest I think they've rather been overtaken by events in the x86 sphere; however, it is good to see options, and it may well be relevant to those developing for embedded or low-power platforms. Reply
  • yannigr2 - Friday, December 6, 2019 - link

    TDP seems too high for an ARM based CPU, even at 16nm. Aren't ARM cores much more energy efficient? Reply

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