Alibaba Cloud's homegrown Arm CPUs emerge in VM trial

Yitian 710 chip boasts 128 Armv9 cores, available to test

Alibaba Cloud has started accepting requests from customers to preview an instance type powered by the home-grown Arm CPUs it revealed last year.

The Yitian 710 processor boasts 128 Armv9-compatible CPU cores that can operate at up to 3.2 GHz. Eight DDR5 channels and 96 PCIe 5.0 lanes are aboard, accounting for some of the 60 billion transistors on the die, which is fabbed using a 5nm process, we're told.

Without much fanfare, Alibaba Cloud has revealed it has the silicon ready to fire up in servers in its cloud. The chips are set to power an Elastic Compute Service (ECS) instance type called g8m, which offers variations sporting 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 or 128 vCPUS – and each vCPU corresponds to a physical core.

The invitation-only preview offers just one of these variations: the ecs.g8m.xlarge virtual machine – a rig with 4 vCPUs, 16 GB of memory, and 3 Gbit/sec of network bandwidth (burstable to 10 Gbit/s.) The instances will run the CPU cores at 2.75 GHz – a little less than the speed ceiling for the silicon.

The preview will run for just two months, after which the Yitian-powered instances will disappear. Alibaba Cloud has warned against running production workloads during the trial. Just 100 instances are on offer, and Alibaba says they're on a first-come-first-served basis. The VMs are hosted in Alibaba's Hangzhou zone in China.

If you fancy a trial, you'll need an Alibaba Cloud account before applying via the g8m instance web page.

If you apply, Alibaba Cloud hasn't explained quite what you're getting yourself into. The company has stated the g8m instances offer a "cost-effectiveness ratio" that's 100 percent higher compared to its current generation of general-purpose instances powered by Intel and AMD processors – but hasn’t explained what that ratio measures. No pricing has been detailed for the g8m instances.

Nor has Alibaba offered any hints about when the trial might end, and the new instance type made more widely available.

Alibaba Cloud is lagging Amazon Web Services, which already offers its second-gen Arm-powered Graviton CPU in many different instance types and has a third-generation Arm processor on the drawing board. Microsoft last week launched an Arm-powered Azure offering, and Oracle Cloud also has Arm servers powered by Ampere silicon.

The Chinese giant is, however, now in the game – and lending further credence to the idea that Arm-powered servers are well suited to cloud-native workloads. That's a proposition that may go down very well in China, where independence from US-sourced tech is a national goal. ®

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