VMware adds support for Ampere Altra-chips

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VMware has added support for Ampere Altra to its ESXi hypervisor. This makes ESXi more usable for SmartNICs, edge devices and Arm servers, for example.

The update in question is version 1.3 of the Arm version of the EXSi hypervisor and has been released as a preview under the so-called Fling programme. This is official but unsupported code that users can experiment with.

80 Arm cores

The Ampere Altra is a powerful Arm processor with 80 cores and a maximum clock speed of 3 GHz. Ampere released this chip last year to compete with x86 server processors from Intel and AMD. The company is also working on a variant with 128 cores. This is intended for hyperscale servers.

SmartNICs

VMware has stated several goals for the Arm version of ESXi. For example, the software has already been used for workloads in windmills, as SmartNICs, and it also runs in Amazon’s Graviton processors. With the Fling version, end users can also test it in their own environments. However, due to the limited support, VMware strongly advises against deploying the software in production environments.

Further changes

In addition to support for the Ampere Altra chips, VMware has made several other changes in version 1.3 of Fling:

  • Improved hardware compatibility (various bug fixes/enhancements)
  • ACPI support for virtual machines
  • NVMe and PVSCSI boot support in vEFI
  • Workaround for ISO boot on some Arm servers
  • Address VMM crash with newer guest OSes and Neoverse N1-based systems
  • Improved guest interrupt controller virtualization
  • Improved (skeletal) PMU virtualization
  • Improved big endian VM support

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