30 October 2012

ARM launches 64bit cores targeting mobile and server applications

ARM has unveiled the Cortex-A53 and A57, the first two devices in the new Cortex-A50 series, which is based on the company's 64bit ARMv8 architecture. The A53 will offer four times more power efficiency while the A57 will offer three times the performance at the same power budget. Both cores, it believes, will be combined to deliver performance and power efficiency.

Ian Drew, ARM's executive vice president for marketing and business development, said: "Mobiles are now driving computing and the number of people using phones and tablets as work devices will only increase."
Noel Hurley, pictured, vp of marketing and strategy for ARM's processor division, noted: "It has been a rare opportunity to start with a clean sheet of paper. When looking at ARMv8, we paid attention to how you develop a 64bit architecture relevant to current processing tasks, but which is power efficient."
Hurley said that, rather than add 32bit to the existing architecture, ARM had paid attention to logic and implementation. "Although it's a clean architecture, the 32bit heritage carries forward; all software and applications continue. The 64bit architecture is in addition to what's already out there."
The need for 64bit devices is being driven mainly by demand from the server industry, where not only more data is being handled, but also larger data sets. But so called 'superphones' are also handling more data, particularly if they are being used to originate data.
ARM has announced the A50 family in association with a number of partners, including AMD, Broadcom, Calxeda, Samsung and STMicroelectronics. Gian Luca Bertino, general manager of ST's digital convergence group, said of the A50 family: "It's scalable and optimises the trade off between power and performance. We're excited by what the technology brings."
Hurley expects first silicon featuring A50 cores to appear in 2013 and 2014, with devices appearing in 2014 and 2015.
He also expects the A50 range to be used in Big.little configurations, referring to the recent announcement by ARM of the A15/A7 based approach. "There will be dual and quad A53 based devices," he believed. "As performance needs increase, you'll see dual A57 cores alongside. Then it scales to servers, where you'll see large arrays of big and little cores."
The cores have been designed so they can be applied to leading edge processes over the next few years, as well as to FinFETs. "They aren't geometry dependent," said Hurley, "and are classic IP cores."
While highlighting the benefits of a 64bit approach, Drew accepted there is a lot of competition in the market, including from x86 based devices. "That won't go away," he said. "It's a trillion dollar market and companies won't give that up easily."

Graham Pitcher

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