Qualcomm Centriq 2400 ARM Server-on-Chip has been four years in the making. The company announced sampling in Q4 2016 using 10nm FinFET process technology with the SoC featuring up to 48 Qualcomm Falkor ARMv8 CPU cores optimized for datacenter workloads. More recently, Qualcomm provided a few more details about the Falkor core, fully customized with a 64-bit only micro-architecture based on ARMv8 / Aarch64.
Finally, here it is as the SoC formally launched with the company announcing commercial shipments of Centriq 2400 SoCs.
Qualcom Centriq 2400 key features and specifications:
- CPU – Up to 48 physical ARMv8 compliant 64-bit only Falkor cores @ 2.2 GHz (base frequency) / 2.6 GHz (peak frequency)
- Cache – 64 KB L1 instructions cache with 24 KB single-cycle L0 cache, 512 KB L2 cache per duplex; 60 MB unified L3 cache; Cache QoS
- Memory – 6 channels of DDR4 2667 MT/s for up to 768 GB RAM; 128 GB/s peak aggregate bandwidth; inline memory bandwidth compression
- Integrated Chipset – 32 PCIe Gen3 lanes with 6 PCIe controllers; low speed I/Os; management controller
- Security – Root of trust, EL3 (TrustZone) and EL2 (hypervisor)
- TDP – < 120W (~2.5 W per core)
The SoC is ARM SBSA v3 compliant, meaning it can run any compliant operating systems without having to resort to “cute embedded nonsense hacks“. The processor if optimized for cloud workloads, and the company explains the SoC are already been used demonstrated for the following tasks:
- Web front end with HipHop Virtual Machine
- NoSQL databases including MongoDB, Varnish, Scylladb
- Cloud orchestration and automation including Kubernetes, Docker, metal-as-a-service
- Data analytics including Apache Spark
- Deep learning inference
- Network function virtualization
- Video and image processing acceleration
- Multi-core electronic design automation
- High throughput compute bioinformatics
- Neural class networks
- OpenStack Platform
- Scaleout Server SAN with NVMe
- Server-based network offload
Three Qualcom Centriq 2400 SKUs are available today
- Centriq 2434 – 40 cores @ 2.3 / 2.5 GHz; 50 MB L3 cache; 110W TDP
- Centriq 2452 – 46 cores @ 2.2 / 2.6 GHz; 57.5 MB L3 cache; 120W TDP
- Centriq 2460 – 48 cores @ 2.2 / 2.6 GHz; 60 MB L3 cache; 120W TDP
Qualcomm Centriq 2460 (48-cores) was compared to an Intel Xeon Platinum 8160 with 24-cores/48 threads (150 W) and found to perform a little better in both integer and floating point benchmarks.
The most important metrics for server SoCs are performance per thread, performance per watt, and performance per dollars, so Qualcomm pitted Centriq 2460, 2452 and 2434 against respectively Intel Xeon Platinum 8180 (28 cores/205W TDP), Xeon Gold 6152 (22 cores/140W TDP), and Xeon Silver 4116 (12 cores/85W TDP). Performance per watt was found to be significantly better for the Qualcomm chip when using SPECint_rate2006 benchmark.
Qualcomm took Xeon SoCs pricing from Intel’s ARK, and in the past prices there did not reflect the real selling price of the chip, at least for low power Apollo Lake / Cherry Trail processors.
Qualcomm also boasted better performance per mm2, and typical power consumption of Centriq 2460 under load of around 60W, well below the 120W TDP. Idle power consumption is around 8 watts using C1 mode, and under 4 Watts when all idle states are enabled.
If you are wary of company provided benchmarks, Cloudflare independently tested Qualcomm Centriq and Intel Skylake/Broadwell servers using Openssl speed, compression algorithms (gzip, brotli…), Go, NGINX web server, and more.
Usually, Intel single core performance is better, but since ARM has more cores, multi-threaded performance is often better on ARM. Here’s their conclusion:
The engineering sample of Falkor we got certainly impressed me a lot. This is a huge step up from any previous attempt at ARM based servers. Certainly core for core, the Intel Skylake is far superior, but when you look at the system level the performance becomes very attractive.
The production version of the Centriq SoC will feature up to 48 Falkor cores, running at a frequency of up to 2.6GHz, for a potential additional 8% better performance.
Obviously the Skylake server we tested is not the flagship Platinum unit that has 28 cores, but those 28 cores come both with a big price and over 200W TDP, whereas we are interested in improving our bang for buck metric, and performance per watt.
Currently my main concern is weak Go language performance, but that is bound to improve quickly once ARM based servers start gaining some market share.
Both C and LuaJIT performance is very competitive, and in many cases outperforms the Skylake contender. In almost every benchmark Falkor shows itself as a worthy upgrade from Broadwell.
The largest win by far for Falkor is the low power consumption. Although it has a TDP of 120W, during my tests it never went above 89W (for the go benchmark). In comparison Skylake and Broadwell both went over 160W, while the TDP of the two CPUs is 170W.
Back to software support, the SoC is supported by a large ecosystem with technologies such as memcached, MongoDB, MySQL, …, cloud management solutions such as Openstack and Kubernetes, programming languages (Java, Python, PHP, Node, Golang…), tools (GVV/ LLVM, GBD…), virtualization solution including KVM, Xen and Docker, as well as operating systems like Ubuntu, Redhat, Suse, and Centos.
Qualcomm is already working on its next generation SoC: Firetail based on Qualcomm Saphira core. But no details were provided yet.
Thanks to David for the links.
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