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Ampere announces latest chip with a 128-core processor

Ron Miller
Blue Color Printed Circuit Board Without Electronic Components Macro View, Selective Focus.

In the chip game, more is usually better, and to that end, Ampere announced the next chip on its product roadmap today, the Altra Max, a 128-core processor the company says is designed specifically to handle cloud-native, containerized workloads.

What's more, the company has designed the chip so that it will fit in the same slot as their 80-core product announced last year (and in production now). That means that engineers can use the same slot when designing for the new chip, which saves engineering time and eases production, says Jeff Wittich, VP of products at the company.

Wittich says that his company is working with manufacturers today to make sure they can build for all of the requirements for the more powerful chip. "The reason we're talking about it now, versus waiting until Q4 when we've got samples going out the door is because it's socket compatible, so the same platforms that the Altra 80 core go into, this 128-core product can go into," he said.

He says that containerized workloads, video encoding, large scale out databases and machine learning inference will all benefit from having these additional cores.

While he wouldn't comment on any additional funding, the company has raised $40 million, according to Crunchbase data, and Wittich says they have enough funding to go into high-volume production on their existing products later this year.

Like everyone, the company has faced challenges keeping a consistent supply chain throughout the pandemic, but when it started to hit in Asia at the beginning of this year, the company set a plan in motion to find backup suppliers for the parts they would need should they run into pandemic-related shortages. He says that it took a lot of work, planning and coordination, but they feel confident at this point in being able to deliver their products in spite of the uncertainty that exists.

"Back in January we actually already went through [our list of suppliers], and we diversified our supply chain and made sure that we had options for everything. So we were able to get in front of that before it ever became a problem," he said.

"We've had normal kinds of hiccups here and there that everyone's had in the supply chain, where things get stuck in shipping and they end up a little bit late, but we're right on schedule with where we were."

The company is already planning ahead for its 2022 release, which is in development. "We've got a test chip running through five nanometer right now that has the key IP and some of the key features of that product, so that we can start testing those out in silicon pretty soon," he said.

Finally, the company announced that it's working with some new partners, including Cloudflare, Packet (which was acquired by Equinix in January), Scaleway and Phoenics Electronics, a division of Avnet. These partnerships provide another way for Ampere to expand its market as it continues to develop.

The company was founded in 2017 by former Intel president Renee James.

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