Publications / Conference Poster

Evaluating the Marvell ThunderX2 Server Processor for HPC Workloads

Hammond, Simon D.; Hughes, Clayton H.; Levenhagen, Michael J.; Vaughan, Courtenay T.; Younge, Andrew J.; Schwaller, Benjamin S.; Aguilar, Michael J.; Pedretti, Kevin P.; Laros, James H.

The high performance computing industry is undergoing a period of substantial change. Not least because of fabrication and lithographic challenges in the manufacturing of next-generation processors. As such challenges mount, the industry is looking to generate higher performance from additional functionality in the micro-architecture space as well as a greater emphasis on efficiency in the design of networkon-chip resources and memory subsystems. Such variation in design opens opportunities for new entrants in the data center and server markets where varying compute-to-memory ratios can present end users with more efficient node designs for particular workloads. In this paper we compare the recently released Marvell ThunderX2 Arm processor - arguably the first high-performance computing capable Arm design available in the marketplace. We perform a set of micro-benchmarking and mini-application evaluation on the ThunderX2 comparing it with Intel's Haswell and Skylake Xeon server parts commonly used in contemporary HPC designs. Our findings show that no one processor performs the best across all benchmarks, but that the ThunderX2 excels in areas demanding high memory bandwidth due to the provisioning of more memory channels in its design. We conclude that the ThunderX2 is a serious contender in the HPC server segment and has the potential to offer supercomputing sites with a viable high-performance alternative to existing designs from established industry players.