A little less than 2 years ago, we investigated the first Arm server SoC that had a chance to compete with midrange Xeon E5s: the Cavium ThunderX. The SoC showed promise, however the low single-threaded performance and some power management issues relegated the 48-core SoC to more niche markets such as CDN and Web caching. In the end, Cavium's first server SoC was not a real threat to Intel's Xeon.

But Cavium did not give up, and rightfully so: the server market is more attractive than ever. Intel's datacenter group is good for about 20 Billion USD (!) in revenue per year. And even better, profit margins are in 50% range. When you want to profits and cash flow, the server market far outpaces any other hardware market. So following the launch of the ThunderX, Cavium promised to bring out a second iteration: better power management, better single thread performance and even more cores (54).

The trick, of course, is actually getting to a point where you can take on the well-oiled machine that is Intel. Arm, Calxeda, Broadcom, AppliedMicro and many others have made many bold promises over the past 5 years that have never materialized, so there is a great deal of skepticism – and rightfully so – towards new Arm Server SoCs.

However, the new creation of underdog Cavium deserves the benefit of the doubt. Much has changed – much more than the name alone lets on – as Cavium has bought the "Vulcan" design from Avago. Vulcan is a rather ambitious CPU design which was originally designed by the Arm server SoC team of Broadcom, and as a result has a much different heritage than the original ThunderX. At the same time however, based on its experience from the ThunderX, Cavium was able to take what they've learned thus far and have introduced some microarchitectural improvements to the Vulcan design to improve its performance and power.

As a result, ThunderX2 is a much more "brainiac" core than the previous generation. While the ThunderX core had a very short pipeline and could hardly sustain 2 instructions per clock, the Vulcan core was designed to fetch 8 and execute up to 4 instructions per clock. It gets better: 4 simultaneous threads can be active (SMT4), ensuring that the wide back-end is busy most of the time. 32 of those cores at clockspeeds up to 2.5 GHz find a home in the new ThunderX2 SoC.

With up to 128 threads running and no less than eight DDR4 controllers, this CPU should be able to perform well in all server situations. In other words, while the ThunderX (1) was relegated to niche roles, the ThunderX2 is the first Arm server CPU that has a chance to break the server market open.

Sizing Things Up: Specifications Compared
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • imaheadcase - Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - link

    I really think Anandtech needs to branch into different websites. Its very strange and unappealing to certain users to have business/consumer/random reviews/phone info all bunched together.

    Ever since anand actually left it really did venture into more a business/insider based website with random stuff thrown in. It is in no way a bad thing, its just like this review for instance would not appeal to %95 of readers normally. Everyone likes technology naturally that comes to this website, but its a fine line between talking about high end server components that are out of reach to people who just read the article on the mini-itx gaming motherboard. lol
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - link

    You're always free to skip articles, nobody's forcing you to read it.
  • boeush - Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - link

    I guess he'd prefer the site content to be grouped in some manner roughly mirroring market segmentation. For instance: consumer, professional, enterprise, exotic/HPC. As opposed to jumbling everything together. Personally, I don't mind - but then, I'm not known for obsessive-compulsive organizing, either :)
  • BurntMyBacon - Thursday, May 24, 2018 - link

    Given the large differences in tech, focus, needs, and trends, I wouldn't mind breaking out Phones and perhaps servers into their own sections. I think there is more than enough overlap to keep consumer and professional desktop/laptop/workstation together, but that is entirely up to how deeply you want to divide things up. On the other hand, you'll want all of it to show up on the front page in some form, or it'll look like the site doesn't have much activity. Perhaps separate pipelines for each category could work. That all said, I don't really mind just skipping over articles that don't interest me. :)
  • imaheadcase - Thursday, May 24, 2018 - link

    Please, that is just lazy excuse. Even news websites have catagory based on the news you interested in. Anandtech literally had a review of a gaming motherboard then a high end server thing, and newz feed gets filled with phone and other news.
  • name99 - Thursday, May 24, 2018 - link

    God, you must REALLY hate Twitter then...

    I argue with Andrei a lot, but every so often he writes a sentence like "You're always free to skip articles, nobody's forcing you to read it" that makes me want to clap him on the back and say "yes, YOU get it" :-)
  • Threska - Sunday, May 27, 2018 - link

    Taken to it's logical extreme the front page could be a dumping ground cesspool and the retort would be "you don't have to wade through any of it" which sounds witty but doesn't solve anything, but over time would lead to the predictable outcome of people leaving.
  • imaheadcase - Sunday, May 27, 2018 - link

    I do hate twitter, but because it has no valid purpose other than to get customer service done faster with companies because it reflects more on them because public venue. Its mostly just a rant inducing place, or a place that is basically just texting anyways since everyone just wants you to send a DM.

    The whole idea of saying "you are free to skip it" is kinda silly thing to say on the internet now. Especially since more and more you can filter things according to what you want. Not only that, but with the tight competition with views from tech websites its in best interest to have more options.

    Even the layout of website never changed. I mean have you ever been to website without a adblocker on? They don't even advertise tech related stuff on it. Its just stupid clickbait stuff.

    Keep in mind, this is not a complaint about articles itself, its just how they are posted. I love this site, been coming to it ever since i built first pc when i was a kid. But its focus is all over the place now vs years ago out what its posting. I'm half thinking one day i will see a review of electronic toothbrush then next day new CPU.
  • GreenReaper - Monday, June 4, 2018 - link

    I'd be fine with that, as long as it was the best darn toothbrush in town!
  • Threska - Sunday, May 27, 2018 - link

    Accessing through RSS might be a better solution especially with a good reader. Just needs accurate tags to match.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now