Ampere announces custom computing cores as it courts cloud customers

·2-min read

By Stephen Nellis

(Reuters) - Ampere Computing Llc, founded by former Intel Corp President Renee James, said on Wednesday it will release a processor next year featuring its own custom-designed computing cores, joining a small group of custom chip companies that includes Apple Inc.

The data-center chip startup is one of a number of companies aiming to challenge Intel and Advanced Micro Devices Inc, which together own most of the booming market for data center and cloud computing chips. Ampere uses some underlying technology from Arm Ltd, the British provider of intellectual property that goes into most of the world's smartphone chips.

The computing core is the most critical part of any chip design, determining key attributes of the chip such has how much electricity it uses, how much computing power it has and how well it handles different types of software.

Ampere - along with companies like Marvell Technology Inc and Amazon.com Inc's Amazon Web Services - is using Arm's intellectual property to create chips that are far more power-efficient than those from Intel and AMD. But most of the chips Ampere competes against use off-the-shelf computing core designs provided by Arm.

Ampere, by contrast, has designed its own computing cores, which could set its chips apart from rivals. Perhaps the best known maker of Arm chips with custom computing cores is Apple, which uses custom cores to differentiate its phones from Android rivals. After years of perfecting its cores in phones, Apple tapped them for its M1 laptop and desktop chips last year to move away from Intel processors.

"It's very analogous to what Apple did with M1 - we're doing it for server," James told Reuters in an interview.

Ampere has been working on the custom cores since the company's founding in 2017. James, who spent nearly 30 years at Intel, noted that most of today's cloud chips are descended from Intel's processor designs from the 1990s. She said Ampere wanted to fully customize its chips from the cores up for the way that cloud vendors sell computing power to customers today.

"We're very focused on the future, not on the past," James said.

Oracle Corp, Microsoft Corp, China's Tencent Holdings Ltd and ByteDance, owner of the popular TikTok app, have committed to using the chips.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; editing by Jonathan Oatis)