Oracle, one of the world’s largest cloud and database services providers, has announced that it will switch from Intel and AMD to Ampere for its processor needs in its Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) A2.
Oracle’s software is widely used by banks and corporations to manage their transactions. For many years, this software has been optimised to run on Intel’s chips, which use the x86 architecture. However, Oracle has decided to change its strategy and adopt Ampere’s processors, which use the ARM architecture.
Why Ampere Chips?
Oracle is determined to catch up with the latest trend in computing. However, it faces a major challenge from regulatory constraints, which limits the power consumption of its data centres.
Many of its data centres have reached the limit of power consumption from the grid. The company has plenty of space, but not enough electricity. Therefore, the only way to grow is by increasing the computing efficiency per watt of power it uses. That’s why it chose Ampere’s new chips.
“We have more room. We just don’t have more electrical capacity. By upgrading to Ampere, we’re able to double the compute and stay within the same power envelope,” said Larry Ellison, CTO and co-founder of Oracle.
Ampere’s new generation of A2-based instances from OCI will offer up to 320 cores per instance for better performance, workload density and scale. Oracle claimed that Ampere’s chips are much more power efficient than the other two chip suppliers, NVIDIA and AMD.
Ampere’s chips have a unique feature: they use custom-designed computing cores that set them apart from other ARM-based chips. Oracle wants to join the race of custom designing chips, as its rival, Amazon has been doing it for a while.
“It’s a major commitment to move to a new supplier. We’ve moved to a new architecture and we’ve moved to a new supplier,” Ellison said. “We think that this is the future. The old Intel x86 architecture, after many decades in the market, is reaching its limit.”
X86 Vs Arm
There are mainly 2 families of processors, ARM and x86. ARM, a nimble and energy-efficient chip, is known for its dominance in mobile devices and embedded systems. It boasted a Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC) architecture, making it economical with power and space.
On the other side stood x86, a giant hailing from the realms of desktops and servers. Its Complex Instruction Set Computing (CISC) architecture granted it formidable processing power, but it consumed more energy and was more expensive to make.
Ultimately, the two arch-rivals coexist in today’s world, each shining in its own domain. ARM remained the epitome of portability and energy saving, while x86 was known for performance.
Ampere’s Golden era
Oracle has shown its strong support for Ampere by investing more than $400 million in the start-up. Oracle recently bought chips from Ampere worth $5 million. The company also paid around $100 million in advance for future CPUs from them. This investment gives Oracle an edge over its rivals who make their own chips.
Oracle was one of the first investors and adopters of Ampere’s chips back in 2021. But, the relationship goes beyond that. Ampere’s CEO Renne James is also a board member of Oracle. Amazon and Google, who make their own server and AI chips, are direct competitors of Ampere. Oracle found the investment opportunity to be very valuable after facing some financial challenges.
In one of Oracle’s blogs, it highlighted how Ampere’s chips have a single thread per core, which allows the organisation to “run workloads with consistent and predictable performance while achieving excellent performance scaling.”
Big Bets on Ampere
Ampere’s technology is not only attracting Oracle, but also Google. In late August, the chipmaker announced that it would supply its flagship chips to Google’s Cloud service.
This deal was a huge boost for Ampere, as Google is one of the largest buyers of data centre chips. Jeff Wittich, chief product officer of Ampere, said that this would lead to more deals in the future.
Earlier this year, Oracle launched its flagship database software to run on Ampere’s chips and encouraged the migration from Intel’s chips to Ampere’s ones. Oracle stated that it would spend billions of dollars on CPUs from Ampere.
Oracle said “the new instances will deliver up to 44% more price-performance compared to x86 offerings and are ideal for AI inference, databases, web services, media transcoding workloads and run-time language support, such as GO and Java”.