COM-HPC Has the Chops to Drive Today’s HPC Applications — ADLINK Ampere Alta Module is Proof

By Rich Nass

Executive Vice President

Embedded Computing Design

February 09, 2022


COM-HPC Has the Chops to Drive Today’s HPC Applications — ADLINK Ampere Alta Module is Proof

Embedded systems are specified for varying requirements, typically based on the application it will drive. It could be long life, low power, small size, or maximum compute power. If your application fits the latter category—maximum compute power—then the ADLINK Technology COM-HPC Ampere Altra server module likely fits the bill for you.

The COM-HPC Ampere Altra module is designed to the latest COM-HPC computer-on-module (COM) standard for high-performance embedded computing. The relatively new standard fits under the umbrella of the PICMG standards body to ensure compatibility with carrier boards and other modules. COM-HPC promises higher performance than the previous standards it was based on, in addition to an increased number of interfaces, multiple module sizes, and different configurations, including options for both client- and server-type modules.

This level of performance lets the COM-HPC Ampere Altra module drive applications such as modern datacenters and autonomous drive vehicles. It also offers the power efficiency needed in these applications, where data is being driven from the edge to the cloud and back. Specific workloads could include data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), database storage, edge computing, and video broadcasting.

The Arm-based Ampere® Altra® microprocessor that’s designed into the latest ADLINK COM-HPC module has 80 cores. The level of performance provided suits the module for such applications as cloud and edge infrastructure.

Arm-Base CPU Provides More than Enough Horsepower

The module’s name is derived from the CPU it’s based on, the Ampere® Altra® 80-core SoC, which is based on Armv8.2+ 64-bit CPU cores, running at a maximum frequency of 2.8 GHz, and Arm’s N1 Neoverse architecture. The Ampere Altra server module incorporates an 80-core version of the Ampere Altra processor that offers a maximum clock frequency of 2.8 GHz and 175 W total power dissipation.

While you may see performance levels such as these offered in upcoming x86-based CPUs, the Arm-based Ampere processor can provide this level of performance today. The Arm-based processor is well-suited to a Linux OS environment. And there is now a higher level of confidence that Linux can be deployed in high-performance computing (HPC) applications. The required security is there, providing the necessary confidence in such configurations.

Arm-based products are now appearing on the market for high-performance computing applications, for a variety of reasons. For example, developers are fairly comfortable writing code that works with the Arm architecture, so system maintenance is less challenging. Systems based on Arm processor cores also tend to consume less power, and thereby run cooler. This is significant for larger, cloud-based systems, where power consumption can grow quickly when a higher number of systems is needed.

Develop With Confidence

A developer can maintain a high level of confidence when porting an operating system to the module thanks to adherence to Arm’s SystemReady program. SystemReady is a compliance certification program that’s based on a pre-defined verified set of hardware and firmware standards, including the base system architecture (BSA) and base boot requirements (BBR).

The SystemReady standards ensure that Arm-based servers, infrastructure edge, and embedded IoT systems meet specific requirements, enabling generic off-the-shelf operating systems to operate as expected out of the box. This includes the operating system, all associated drivers, and all the hardware, with compliance given only after thorough testing.

Adherence to SystemReady also ensures instant compatibility with any other products that comply with the initiative. Hence, any products that comply can use unmodified mainstream OS distributions, usually in their off-the-shelf state. This essentially eliminates potential Linux porting issues that can occur with entry-level products designed for Arm.

SystemReady also simplifies the task for developers by removing configuration hurdles that have plagued previous system-integration efforts. Such an advantage was exclusively available—for decades in some cases—to products based on the x86 architecture. An added benefit of the SystemReady program is that it will enable and grow the community of Arm-native developers, so all sides will benefit.

To that end, Ampere has an agreement in place with Canonical to streamline the certification for high performance Ampere-based systems, particularly when it comes to Ubuntu platforms to satisfy the demands of at-scale Ubuntu application streaming. This lets OEMs deploy a host of high-performance mobile and IoT applications that need the performance and scale of cloud-hosted Ubuntu services.

The Ampere Altra CPU is SystemReady-compliant and is one of the only devices available that delivers this abstraction, up to the highest possible levels. As a result, a developer can simply download a stock 64-bit extension and do an install through a live (completely bootable) OS image directly onto the target module. This is a convenience that developers are now accustomed to.

All the Hooks Needed to Future-Proof

Use of Ampere processors allow ADLINK to future-proof its own product lines thanks to the performance offered by the Ampere Altra as well as its I-Pi wiki support. And ADLINK can easily migrate to a higher-performing Ampere Altra if that’s what customers demand. Other features of the module include an increased number of interfaces, lower power consumption, and a lower total cost of ownership, thanks to the reduced power consumption.

As previously mentioned, autonomous driving systems are suited for a module like the ADLINK COM-HPC Ampere Altra and the performance it offers, especially because there’s a lot of prototyping still taking place for software development. A host of features, including SystemReady, have removed earlier hesitancy to deploy an Arm-based platform for such a system. AI applications are also a natural fit for the ADLINK COM-HPC Ampere Altra.

Armed with the advantages of SystemReady compliance as well as the performance derived from the Ampere Altra processor, ADLINK’s COM-HPC Ampere Altra module will hit new heights in the latest HPC applications.

Richard Nass’ key responsibilities include setting the direction for all aspects of OSM’s ECD portfolio, including digital, print, and live events. Previously, Nass was the Brand Director for Design News. Prior, he led the content team for UBM’s Medical Devices Group, and all custom properties and events. Nass has been in the engineering OEM industry for more than 30 years. In prior stints, he led the Content Team at EE Times,, and TechOnLine. Nass holds a BSEE degree from NJIT.

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