Ampere officially positions its Altra processors primarily for cloud workloads, but Gigabyte decided that these parts with up to 128 cores are good enough for compute GPU-based servers for artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) applications. This week the company formally rolled-out its G492-PD0 server that combines an Arm-based CPU and a heavy-duty compute GPU.
Gigabyte's G492-PD0 server comes with one Ampere Altra Max (128 Arm v8.2 cores) or Altra (80 Arm v8.2 cores) processor as well as up to eight Nvidia A100 80GB SXM4 compute GPUs interconnected between themselves using Nvidia's NVLink bus at 600GB/s. The system can be equipped with up to 4TB of DDR4-3200 memory using 16 modules, four M.2 solid-state drives, six U.2 SSDs, and ten low-profile PCIe expansion cards. The whole machine is powered by three 3000W 80+ Platinum power supplies (+ one additional PSU for redundancy).
Gigabyte's 4U machine fully leverages Nvidia's HGX platform, so it fully leverages not only NVLink with NVSwitches for GPUs, but also the green company's GPUDirect RDMA for direct data exchange between GPUs and third-party devices like SSDs and network cards.
Previously, Gigabyte offered Nvidia A100 GPU-based servers with up to two 64-core AMD EPYC 7003 or 40-core Intel Xeon Scalable 'Ice Lake' processors. Those machines tend to be expensive given that both AMD and Intel charge a lot for their flagship offerings for servers that are in high demand. With a system based on Ampere's Altra/Altra Max, Gigabyte can offer somewhat lower pricing. Meanwhile, Gigabyte's G492-PD0 server has fewer PCIe lanes and potentially lower performance in some workloads, but organizations that buy GPU servers tend to do research before buying new machines to ensure they meet their needs.
There is another reason why Gigabyte needs this server: Gigabyte and users of its AI and HPC servers need is to gain experience with Arm-based CPUs in context of GPU-powered HPC applications before Nvidia launches its platforms powered by its Grace CPU and H100 compute GPU next year. Usage of Ampere Altra and Altra Max CPUs with up to 128 cores makes a lot of sense for Gigabyte as the machines are Arm-based and have a lot of cores.
It is noteworthy that Ampere's Altra/Altra Max-based platforms in general and Gigabyte's G492-PD0 machine in particular have been certified by Arm for its SystemReady program for easy deployment of Arm-based servers. The Arm SystemReady program offers an official set of platform definitions that cover machines that range from IoT and edge servers all the way to cloud machines.