MACOM Sells AppliedMicro X-Gene CPU Business

MACOM last week announced that it has entered into an agreement to sell the microprocessor-related assets it bought from AppliedMicro to Project Denver Holdings, a new company backed by The Carlyle Group asset management company.

MACOM closed the acquisition of AppliedMicro early in 2017. Back then, the company made no secret that it was primarily interested in Applied Micro’s MACsec and 100G to 400G solutions, but not in the company’s X-Gene server CPUs. MACOM’s plan was to become a leader in datacenter communication technologies with a focus on optical networks in particular (analog, photonic and mixed-signal PHYs). That said, the X-Gene business was not exactly the best fit for MACOM and the future of the CPU division has been unclear.

The X-Gene 3 server platform looked promising when it was introduced last November. The CPU has 32 custom ARMv8 cores running at up to 3 GHz, with 32 MB of L3 cache, eight DDR4-2667 memory channels with ECC, and 42 PCIe 3.0 lanes. MACOM started to sample the X-Gene 3 among interested parties this March and Kontron even demonstrated a server based on the CPU at MWC 2017. MACOM has not started commercial shipments of the X-Gene 3 yet, nonetheless the X-Gene 3 and its possible successors were impressive enough for The Carlyle Group to establish a new entity that will finalize the X-Gene 3 and continue development efforts.

Neither MACOM nor Carlyle have disclosed the financial terms of the deal, but MACOM will get a minority stake in Project Denver Holdings. Speaking of the latter, it is necessary to say that the new company has its own leadership team and a strong financial backing from Carlyle Partners VI (which is a $13 billion U.S. buyout fund). Assuming that Project Denver Holdings will keep AppliedMicro’s development team and will invest sufficient amount of money in the X-Gene in general, the new company will have chances to remain a leading supplier of ARMv8-based server CPUs. At the moment, the X-Gene is used by over half of a dozen server makers, so Project Denver Holdings is getting a business with existing, incoming and future products as well as customers.



7 thoughts on “MACOM Sells AppliedMicro X-Gene CPU Business

  1. What ARM server chip makers always got wrong is that they didn't use the latest cutting edge process that was available to them. Sure, ARM has its advantages in power efficiency, but the advantage is not that great to allow them to be 1.5 generations behind in process node technology compared to Intel. And that's disregarding software support and such.So ARM chip makers will need to not only beat Intel on perf/W and perf/price, but they also need to beat AMD now, because anyone who is going to consider switching to something other than Intel, is going to take AMD's EPYC chip into account, too.So far only Qualcomm has been serious about using a cutting edge process, and it also has a little more more than all the other ARM competitors so far, so we'll see how it goes.

  2. It's now a year old already and not sold commercial. So what else than an utter failure can this be called? ARM server companies are failing left and right. No one will buy this X-Gene now simply because it has a very unknown future and could be canceled at moments notice. 0% guarantee you get a future upgrade and even if you have a contract on that, if they have like 5 customers it's still cheaper to fuck them over and pay than develop a successor.

  3. Project Denver was NVIDIA's code name for their custom 64-bit ARMv8 CPU. I believe NVIDIA originally intended to develop it into a server chip, but significantly scaled back their efforts when the first push of ARM processors into servers didn't take hold. I wonder if this new company has been formed by former NVIDIA employees.

  4. This is very significant. The resulting company will be the only company in the world that will have ARM server processors as its core business.

  5. I doubt AMD will reopen their ARM efforts unless the market takes off. They don't have a lot of financial room for more projects. They'd probably be better off spending the money on trying to get their GPUs and x86 CPUs in data centers.The companies that seem to have the best chance to successfully put ARM chips into servers are Qualcomm, Cavium, and Project Denver. It's encouraging because they seem to be getting at least some support from various parts of the software ecosystem.

  6. These things have PCIe lanes and I assume PCIe slots. Why wouldn't you be able to shove an Nvidia cards into one of their mainboards and use it for the mentioned HPC stuff? If you aren't interested in Intels or AMDs big cores and just rely on GPU computing, this might be more cost efficient.

  7. The ARM server market is tough, seems its been on life support for ~5 years and non-existent. Hopefully with more players entering the market (QCOM? AMD coming back??), SW devs and users will port more apps and expand the ecosystem.Not sure why the last slide has a Nvidia logo and a GPU card in it, those obviously aren't powered by X-Gene.

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