The ThunderX SoCs

Below you can see all the building blocks that Cavium has used to build the ThunderX.

Depending on the target market, some of these building blocks are removed to reduce power consumption or to increase the clockspeed. The "Cloud Compute" version (ThunderX_CP) that we're reviewing today has only one accelerator (vSwitch offload) and 4 SATA ports (out of 16), and no Ethernet fabric.


But even the compute version can still offer an 8 integrated 10 Gbit Ethernet interfaces, which is something you simply don't see in the "affordable" server world. For comparison, the Xeon D has two 10 Gbit interfaces.

The storage version (_ST) of the same chip has more co-processors, more SATA ports (16) and an integrated Ethernet fabric. But the ThunderX_ST cuts back on the number of PCIe lanes and might not reach the same clockspeeds.


There is also a secure compute version with IP Sec/SSL accelerators (_SC) and network/telco version (_NT). In total there are 4 variants of the same SoC. But in this article, we focus on the version we were able to test: the CP or Cloud Compute.

Introducing ThunderX: 48 ARM Cores Xeon D vs ThunderX: Supermicro vs Gigabyte
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  • JohanAnandtech - Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - link

    Good suggestion. I have been using an ipmi client to manage several other servers, like the IBM servers. However, such a GUI client is still a bit more userfriendly, ipmi commands can get complicated if you don't use them regularly. The thing is that HP and Intel's BMC GUI are a lot easier to use and more reliable.
  • fanofanand - Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - link

    I think you may have an inaccurate figure of 141 at idle (in the graph) for the Thunder. "makes us suspect that the chip is consuming between 40 and 50W at idle, as measured at the wall"
  • JohanAnandtech - Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - link

    If you look at the Column "peak vs idle", you see 82W. At peak, we assume that a 120W TDP chip will probably need about 130W. 130W - 82W (both measured at the wall) = 50W for the SoC alone at idle measured at the wall, so anywhere between 40-50W in reality. My Calculation is a "guestimate", but it is clear that the Cavium chip needs much more in idle than the Intel chips.(10-15W) .
  • djayjp - Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - link

    Many spelling/grammar issues here. It impacts readability. Please read before posting.
  • djayjp - Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - link

    That is to say in the article.
  • mariush - Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - link

    These guys are already working on ThunderX2 (54 cores, 3 Ghz , 14nm , ARMv8) and they already have functional chips :
  • Meteor2 - Thursday, June 16, 2016 - link

    It's always jam tomorrow, isn't it? Intel is working on new chips too, you know.
  • beginner99 - Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - link

    It loses very clearly in performance/watt to Xeon-D. In this segment the lower price doesn't matter in that case and the fact that it has a process disadvantage doesn't matter either. What counts is the end result. And I doubt it would cost $800 if made on 14/16nm. I mean why would anyone buying this take the risk? Safer bet to go with Intel also due to more flexible use (single and multi threaded). The latency issue is mentioned but downplayed.
  • blaktron - Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - link

    So downplayed. Anandtech desperately wants ARM servers, but its a solution looking for a problem. Big web front ends running on bare metal are such a small percentage of the server market that developing for it seems stupid. Xeon-D was already in development for SANs, they just repurposed it for docker and nginx.
  • Senti - Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - link

    Very nice article. I especially liked the emphasis on relations of test numbers and real world workloads and what was problematic during the testing.

    It would be great to see the same style desktop CPU review (Zen?) form you instead of mix of reprinted marketing hype with silly benchmark numbers dump that plagues this site for quite some time now.

    Some annoying typos here and there, like "It is clear that the ThunderX is a match for high frequency trading", but nothing really bad.

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