Cavium ThunderX Server SoC Features up to 48 ARM 64-bit Cores

ARM SBSA specification for server supports up to 268,435,456 CPU cores for the second level of standardization on one or a combination of SoCs. We’re not quite up there just yet, but Cavium ThunderX is an ARM server SoC with up to 48 cores on a single chip, which is the highest number of cores I’ve ever heard of in an ARM SoC.

Cavium Thunder X Block Diagram
Simplified Cavium ThunderX Block Diagram

The company created their own custom processor cores using an ARMv8 architecture license, designing an SoC complies with ARM’s Server Base System Architecture (SBSA) standard with the following key features:

  • ARM based SoC that scales up from 8 to 48 cores with up to 2.5 GHz core frequency with 78K I-Cache, 32K D-Cache, and 16MB L2 cache.
  • Fully cache coherent across dual sockets using Cavium Coherent Processor Interconnect (CCPI)
  • Integrated I/O capacity with 100s of Gigabits of I/O bandwidth
  • 4x DDR3/4 72-bit memory controllers supporting up to 1TB RAM @ 2400 MHz in a dual socket configuration
  • Hundreds of integrated hardware accelerators for security, storage, networking and virtualization applications.
  • Cavium virtSOC technology allowing full system virtualization for low latency from virtual machine to I/O.
  • Best in class performance per watt and performance per dollar for the target applications

ThunderX processor family is comprised of several models depending on target applications: Compute, Storage, Secure Compute, and Networking as well as server chips (CN88XX_X)with 24 to 48 cores, and low-end server chips (CN87XX_X) with 8 to 16 cores.

The server chips are available in 4 SKU families:

  • ThunderX_CP (Compute)
    • Up to 48 cores along with integrated virtSOC, dual socket coherency, multiple 10/40 GbE and high memory bandwidth.
    • Optimized for private and public cloud web servers, content delivery, web caching, search and social media workloads.
  • ThunderX_ST (Storage)
    • Up to 48 cores along with integrated virtSOC, multiple SATAv3 controllers, 10/40 GbE & PCIe Gen3 ports, high memory bandwidth, dual socket coherency, and scalable fabric for east-west as well as north-south traffic connectivity.
    • Includes hardware accelerators for data protection/ integrity/security, user to user efficient data movement (RoCE) and compressed storage.
    • Optimized for Hadoop, block & object storage, distributed file storage and hot/warm/cold storage type workloads.
  • Thunder_SC (Secure Compute)
    • Up to 48 cores along with integrated virtSOC, 10/40 GbE connectivity, multiple PCIe Gen3 ports, high memory bandwidth, dual socket coherency, and scalable fabric for east-west as well as north-south traffic connectivity.
    • Includes Cavium’s 4th generation NITROX and TurboDPI technology with acceleration for IPSec, SSL, Anti-virus, Anti-malware, firewall and DPI.
    • Optimized for Secure Web front-end, security appliances and Cloud RAN type workloads.
  • Thunder_NT (Networking)
    • Up to 48 cores along with integrated virtSOC, 10/40/100 GbE connectivity, multiple PCIe Gen3 ports, high memory bandwidth, dual socket coherency, and scalable fabric with feature rich capabilities for bandwidth provisioning , QoS, traffic Shaping and tunnel termination.
    • Hardware accelerators include high packet throughput processing, network virtualization and data monitoring.
    • Optimized for media servers, scale-out embedded applications and NFV (Network Functions Virtualization) type workloads.

The cost and power optimized ThunderX CN87xx family with 8 to 16 cores will be available in single socket configuration with two DDR3/4 controllers, multiple 10GbE, SATAv3 and PCIe Gen3 interfaces. It will be used for cold storage, distributed content delivery, dedicated hosting, distributed memory caching and embedded and control plane.

Cavium has partnered with several companies, including ODM and OEM partners such as GIGABYTE and Hewlett Packard, is part of Linaro, the Linux Foundation, OpenStack, UEFI, Xen, etc.. industry groups.  Supported operating systems include Canonical’s Ubuntu, RedHat’s Fedora,  MontaVista Linux and openSUSE.  Oracale Java, OpenJDK and GNU toolchain have been ported to the platform, as well as KVM and Xen virtualization platforms.

The company expects ThunderX processors and hardware reference platforms to be available in Q4 2014. Further details may be available on Cavium’s ThunderX page.

Via EETimes

[Update: Here’s the pic of the dual socket board (96 cores: 48 + 48) via There’s also a single socket version. They all require an heatsink as shown in the bottom left corner of the pi (red/orange heatsink]

Cavium ThunderX Dual Socket Motherboard (Click to Enlarge)
Cavium ThunderX Dual Socket Motherboard (Click to Enlarge)
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9 years ago

Well this is either going to be a huge SOC in terms of die size or the cores ar of the “dumber” type meaning they’re simpler and while they’re going to be fast for simple tasks they won’t be that fast for more complex ones. Pretty much like those in the PS3 Cell.

9 years ago

Well, the basic Cortex-A57 @28nm is only around 6mm2 – 8mm2, depending on mfg/litho, so the CPU cores alone weight in anything from 288mm2 to 384mm2 (quick’n’dirty multiplication, reality differs of course).

As silicon real estate is one of the biggest costs (and yield problems), I bet they aim for smaller core variation, so if the CPU takes 288mm2, I would bet the final silicon be around 350mm2 or so (the CN88xx).

The smaller CN87xx would then be around 150mm2 or so.

Disclaimer, I’m pulling those off top of my head, no real data at hand. 🙂

9 years ago

Looks great! I hope the price of board will be less than X-Gene.

9 years ago

Looks promising for CRAN, Datacenter and RAN-SDN market. Looking forward to Release.

Khadas VIM4 SBC