Amazon’s AWS has revealed a new version of its Graviton processor specifically for powering high-performance computing workloads. AWS says the Graviton3E offers a performance boost of up to 35% for certain functions.
The chip was unveiled at the company’s re:Invent conference in Las Vegas as part of a keynote speech by Peter DeSantis, senior vice president of AWS Utility Computing.
What can the AWS Graviton3E do?
Amazon has been using its own chips for four years in a bid to cut costs and offer cheaper services to AWS customers. Its acquisition of Israeli chip design company Annapurna Labs in 2015 helped accelerate the development of the processors, which are based on the Arm architecture. The first version of Graviton launched at re:Invent in 2018.
DeSantis told the re:Invent audience that the new processors will be used to power new AWS EC2 instances which are likely to come online next year. The company’s C7gn Instances will be designed for demanding network-intensive workloads, such as firewalls and virtual routers, and will be powered by the 3E, while Hpc7g Instances will offer what AWS claims is the best price-to-performance ratio for high-performance workloads.
At present, AWS customers can choose servers powered by a variety of chips made by the likes of Intel, AMD and Nvidia, all of which offer high-performance CPUs and GPUs designed for different cloud workloads. New instances powered by the latest generation of Intel’s server chips, Ice Lake, were also announced at re:Invent. AWS says will continue to support other chipmakers, with DeSantis describing the likes of AMD and Intel as “great partners” in an interview with Bloomberg, but it is clear that the hyperscaler is trying to push its own designs.
The changing face of the server chip market
The server chip market has traditionally been dominated by Intel, but in recent years AMD has taken a significant chunk of business, while Nvidia’s GPUs are favoured by many businesses for running artificial intelligence systems and other complex tasks. Further competition is being provided by Ampere Computing, a company dedicated to building server processors which has seen its silicon adopted by the other two big players in the cloud market – Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.
AWS believes there is an opportunity for it to cash in, too, and it believes that by cutting costs it will encourage more businesses and scientific researchers to use AWS for high-performance computing needs. “The reason that high-performance computing isn’t big is it’s hard,” DeSantis told Bloomberg. “It’s hard to get capacity, it’s hard to get time on that supercomputer. What we’re excited about is bringing the capabilities of high-performance computing to more workloads.”