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August 31st, 2020

Arm processors in the Data Center

By Raghib Hussain, Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President, Networking and Processors Group

Last week, Marvell announced a change in our strategy for ThunderX, our Arm-based server-class processor product line. I’d like to take the opportunity to put some more context around that announcement, and our future plans in the data center market.

ThunderX is a product line that we started at Cavium, prior to our merger with Marvell in 2018. At Cavium, we had built many generations of successful processors for infrastructure applications, including our Nitrox security processor and OCTEON infrastructure processor. These processors have been deployed in the world’s most demanding data-plane applications such as firewalls, routers, SSL-acceleration, cellular base stations, and Smart NICs. Today, OCTEON is the most scalable and widely deployed multicore processor in the market.

As co-founder of Cavium, I had a strong belief that Arm-based processors also had a role to play in next generation data centers. One size simply doesn’t fit all anymore, so we started the ThunderX product line for the server market. It was a bold move, and we knew it would take significant time and investment to come to fruition. In fact, we have spent six years now building multiple generations of products, developing the ecosystem, the software, and working with customers to qualify systems for production deployment in large data centers. ThunderX2 was the industry’s first Arm-based processor capable of powering dual socket servers that could go toe-to-toe with x86-based solutions, and clearly established the performance credentials for Arm in the server market. We moved the bar higher yet again with ThunderX3, as we discussed at Hot Chips 32.

Today, we see strong ecosystem support and a significant opportunity for Arm-based processors in the data center. But the real market opportunity for server-class Arm processors is in customized solutions, optimized for the use cases at hyperscale data center operators. This should be no surprise, as the power of the Arm architecture has always been in its ability to be integrated into highly optimized designs tailored for specific use cases, and we see hyperscale datacenter applications as no different.

Our rich IP portfolio, decades of processor expertise with Nitrox, OCTEON, and ThunderX, combined with our new custom ASIC capability, and investment in the latest TSMC 5nm process node, puts Marvell in a unique position to address this market opportunity. So to us, this market driven change just makes sense. We look forward to partnering with our customers and helping to deliver highly optimized solutions tailored to their unique needs.

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