AWS is running a 96-core, 192-thread, custom Xeon server

Amid all the Graviton chat, cloud colossus still has a soft spot for Chipzilla

Updated Amazon Web Services has started offering a cloudy server packing a custom fourth-generation Intel Xeon Scalable processor and boasting 96 cores or 192 vCPUs.

It's almost certainly not a colossal chip that features 36 more cores than the mightiest Xeon Intel lists for sale to the public – the 60-core Platinum 8490H – and instead a 48-core processor in a two-socket server.

Intel has form doing custom jobs that beat the kit of its official product list: we once spotted Oracle with a Xeon that outpaced processors sold to other customers.

Whatever the kit inside the box, news of it emerged in a Wednesday post detailing the newly-available M7i-Flex and M7i instance types available in the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2).

That post lists an instance type called the "m7i.48xlarge" that offers 192 vCPUs, and AWS's CPU options page lists the instance as offering 96 default CPU cores.

We've asked AWS and Intel to detail the spec of the silicon, because a single processor with 96 cores would be well beyond what Chipzilla has spoken about in public.

And yes, it almost goes without saying: some non-Intel chip designers have single-socket processors with more than 96 cores. For instance: Ampere with up to 192 Arm-compatible cores per package.

Whatever's inside the servers running M7i-Flex and M7i instance types, AWS claims they "offer the best performance among comparable Intel processors in the cloud – up to 15 percent faster than Intel processors utilized by other cloud providers."

The M7I instance is suggested as suitable for large application servers and databases, gaming servers, CPU-based machine learning, and video streaming. The M7I-Flex are touted as suited to web and application servers, virtual desktops, batch processing, micro-services, databases, and enterprise applications.

The Flex instances are said to offer five percent better price/performance and five percent lower prices than the vanilla M7I. AWS also says applications running on previous generations of its general purpose instances can move to M7I "without having to make changes to your application or your workload."

Bare metal M7I instances are in the works, with either 96 or 192 vCPUs.

Whether or not Intel has cooked AWS a 96-core single-socket Xeon, this custom job is significant because even as AWS promotes its own Arm-powered Graviton CPUs that it's even asked for its own Xeon shows it clearly still sees a role for full-fat x86 processors.

Another is that the big fourth-gen Xeons sells for $10,000 or more apiece. As AWS buys in big numbers, Chipzilla may well have a nice little earner on its hands here. As Intel deals with a balance sheet balancing act, news that one of the planet's top CPU buyers has collaborated on very powerful custom kit is surely a fillip. ®

Updated to add at 0015 UTC, August 7

A reader took the M7I instances for a spin, queried the machine to learn its CPU type, and told The Reg it is a two-socket machine packing a 48-core Xeon Platinum 8488C processor.

Intel's list of fourth-gen Xeon Scalable processors includes the 56-core 8480+, and we've spotted the 8480c with the same core count. But Chipzilla's site doesn't mention the 8488C.

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