Hands on ARM64 80-core server

Hardware and CPU development does not ever stop. Some CPUs are getting faster, some are getting more energy efficient, some are getting new features and adopt newer technologies. For the last 5 years each of us has been bringing a small server or a desktop in their pockets in a phone-factor device. And now phone-CPUs are coming to the server battle field.

Our mobile devices – most of them – are running on CPUs based on ARM64 technology. They are super power efficient and yet powerful enough for quite complex tasks. Our mobile devices run on Linux based OS and software and therefore it was a matter of time, when we would see a solution for businesses, like server business.

So today I am looking at the ARM64 based server – server with Ampere ® Altra ® Q80-30 CPU and 128GB ECC. I will do benchmarks using WordPress plugin from wpbechmark.io, compare to servers on more common x64 architecture and I will try to give some personal thoughts.

One advantage of the Arm64-architecture is the fact that the cores are able to process smaller instructions quite fast thanks to RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer). And when looking at threads and performance, two single-threading cores (one thread per core) easily outdo one x86 hyper-threading core (two threads per core).

quote from the hosting company’s press release

Benchmark CPU using sysbench tool

Sysbench graph shows very important tendency. First of all single core score (one-thread graph) is low. Out of these 6 CPUs – only Ryzen5 3600 is slower, than Altra Q80. It shows, that in terms of single core – this CPU is not very powerful, compared to latest desktop CPUs, but in terms of total raw power per CPU socket – none of them is even close.

Second very important thing here is that most of these desktop CPUs are multi-threaded and their raw performance only grows until their reach 50% of available threads (that is because most of them have 2 threads per core). At the same time Altra Q80 only has 1 thread per core and it’s performance peaks at it’s 100% thread use.

Technically it is not correct to directly compare these CPUs using percentage of available threads. But if we would compare them by the number of cores and power they produce – the game would be even more drastic. Think of this comparison as a comparison between huge oil tanker or container ship versus regular cargo vessel. One is slower, but much bigger, the other one – nasty, fast, but can not hold as much total load, as the first one.

If we compare raw scores, then single Altra Q80 server is the same as:

  • 21 x Ryzen5 3600
  • 5 x Ryzen7 7700
  • 3.5 x Intel i9 13900
  • 3 x Ryzen9 5950X
  • 2.8 x Ryzen9 7950X3D

Bringing WordPress to ARM64

Since some of us are into hosting business and WordPress is still a big thing in 2023 – let’s see, how this monster works with WordPress sites – or to be more precise – how PHP, MySQL and Apache run on it. Once again – I have used Debian 12 and precompiled packages from APT repositories.

First I will show graphs of CPU and MySQL performance and give my thoughts below.

As you can see – there is not a single benchmark, where Altra Q80-30 would outperform other CPUs. But is it all so bad for this newcomer? I would not judge it that way!

All these tests show, that it’s single core performance is not as fast, as for others. Single Altra’s CPU cores are smaller and weaker, they are not as good with large texts, complex CPU operations, etc. But! They are 80 in a single single chip + they are for this count way more energy efficient + under heavy / full load – their performance is becoming close to the performance of the others – aaaaand – you must not forget number of cores – 100% load per Altra Q80-30 is 80 simultaneous threads, using CPU at 100%, while for Intel i9 13900 – that is just 32. So technically it’s doing almost 3 times more processing.

Conclusions & use case for the new CPU

This is an amazing CPU with amazing capacity. It is not the fastest, when it comes to single core performance, but the total capacity is enormous. While coming from different technological architecture – it is absolutely possible to run a webserver, PHP, MySQL and all other software. This CPU has no issues with that.

This CPU has no problems running MySQL, PHP, Apache or NGINX or Litespeed webserver and has no problems running web based software, like WordPress or Joomla. I am sure Node.JS and other similar scripts will run just fine there as well.

Use case for this new CPU can vary and be very different. In fact – pretty much anything. But it will shine at its best for systems, where you run very very very large amount of CPU intense processes. If your server has 30+ simultaneous processes running and using CPU at 100% – this beast will make your day.

Another great use for this beast is a virtual machine host. Pack it with 256GB of RAM, proper amount of fast storage – and you can run a descent amount of virtual machines – medium or small ones. With small VMs – you can make 100 of them. But keep in mind – you can only run ARM64 based distributions, even inside VMs. Most Linux distributions have released ARM64 architecture distros, so technically – you should be absolutely fine with that. 🙂

Scenario not for this CPU. Just my personal opinion, take in account carefully. 🙂
I would not use this CPU for servers, where you need peak performance, but number of tasks is not high or software is not threaded. While this CPU is good for website with many many many visitors (and as result – many processes handling them) – I would not use it for servers, where there are not a lot of visitors, websites that use complex scripts.

Note: remember to checkout other server CPU benchmark here.

Do you have comments? Suggestions? Do you have server, that I can benchmark? Feel free to contact me at [email protected].

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