Amazon has more than half of all Arm server CPUs in the world
They kept that quiet
Amazon is the most successful manufacturer of Arm server chips, accounting for just over half of Arm-based server CPUs currently deployed, while some chipmakers are also now betting on Arm-based Windows PCs.
This information comes from a report issued by Bernstein Research which estimates that nearly 10 percent of servers across the world contain Arm processors, and 40 percent of those are located in China, as we reported earlier.
But that total is beaten by just one company – Amazon – which has slightly above 50 percent of all Arm server CPUs in the world deployed in its Amazon Web Services (AWS) datacenters, said the analyst.
Amazon currently uses its own Graviton family of chips, designed by the Annapurna Labs division of Amazon Web Services and introduced to the world back in 2018, which are for its own internal use only. The latest iteration is the Graviton3E for high-performance computing applications, introduced towards the end of 2022.
According to Bernstein, because these chips were optimized for the specific needs of AWS, the company is able to fit in more cores per socket or per rack and the chips consume less power, translating to lower spending on space and cooling.
It is often asserted that while Arm cores might be more energy efficient, they provide lower performance than x86 chips. However, the report said that customer testimonies compiled by Amazon claim 20 percent to 70 percent lower cost at the same performance as comparable x86 chips.
Bernstein's report estimates that Graviton represented about 20 percent of AWS CPU instances by mid-2022, most of which would have been the 7nm Graviton2, but Amazon is moving to deploy 5nm Graviton3 and 3E instances and is expected to introduce a Graviton4 with the Armv9 architecture fabricated using TSMC's 3nm production process in 2025.
Ampere is credited as being "arguably the second most successful Arm server CPU supplier," which the report estimates to have between 5 and 10 percent of this market. It managed to grow from essentially nothing to account for 0.6 percent of all CPU instances available from cloud providers globally by mid-2022, as per the report.
Future of Huawei and Phytium CPUs 'unclear'
Other companies with Arm server chips include Nvidia, which is introducing products based on its Grace Arm CPU to market, plus Huawei and Phytium in China. However, Bernstein notes that "US export controls put Phytium on the Entity List and Huawei on the Foreign Direct Product rule," as a consequence of which, both are facing difficulties in accessing foundries with advanced process node technologies and "the future of their CPUs is very unclear."
Looking beyond servers, Bernstein's report estimates that Arm chips powered about 12 percent of PCs shipped in the fourth quarter of 2022 (excluding Chromebooks), with the vast majority of these being Macs.
- AWS is running a 96-core, 192-thread, custom Xeon server
- Amazon isn't sold on AMD's tiny Zen 4c cores in manycore Bergamo processors
- Microsoft offers electrical engineers a lifeline as it pursues custom cloud silicon
- Arm has legs: VMware's Bitnami starts packaging apps for Graviton and Ampere
The research notes that Qualcomm has invested heavily to try to replicate Apple's success with Arm-based Macs on Windows PCs, via its acquisition of chip designer Nuvia. Bernstein expects to see Qualcomm launch the first chip later this year, and that devices such as Microsoft's Surface will be available with it shortly after.
However, the report warns that unlikethe "closed" software systems of Apple and the cloud providers, the open software ecosystem of Windows (sorry readers, that's what the report says), with its catalogue of x86 applications, makes introducing Windows-based PCs on a new CPU architecture a much more difficult proposition.
Other companies dipping a toe in the Arm-based PC market include Taiwan-based MediaTek and Samsung, and Microsoft notably launched an Arm-powered developer system, the Windows Dev Kit 2023, late last year. ®