Arm enables Custom Instructions for embedded CPUs

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Arm has unveiled Custom Instructions, a new feature for the Armv8-M architecture, at Arm TechCon in San Jose, California.

Launched by CEO Simon Segars, Arm Custom Instructions will initially be implemented in Arm Cortex-M33 CPUs starting in the first half of 2020 at no additional cost to new and existing licensees, enabling SoC designers to add their own instructions for specific embedded and IoT applications without risk of software fragmentation.

“A world of a trillion secure intelligent devices will be built on a diversity of complex use cases requiring increased synergy between hardware and software design,” said Dipti Vachani, senior vice president and general manager, Automotive and IoT Line of Business, Arm. “We have engineered Arm Custom Instructions to fuel closer hardware and software co-design efforts toward achieving application-specific acceleration while unlocking greater device differentiation.”

Architected as part of the evolution of the Armv8-M architecture with secure Arm TrustZone technology, Arm Custom Instructions are based on a simple guiding principle; the CPU is a chassis for Arm silicon partner innovation. This approach gives chip designers the opportunity to push performance and efficiency further by adding their unique application-specific features into Cortex-M33 CPUs.

Arm Custom Instructions are enabled by modifications to the CPU that reserve encoding space for designers to easily add custom datapath extensions while maintaining the integrity of the existing software ecosystem.

This feature, together with the existing co-processor interface, enable Cortex-M33 CPUs to be extended with various types of accelerators optimized for edge compute use cases including machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI).

Arm Custom Instructions, combined with the recent introduction of Arm Flexible Access underscore, according to the company, its increased commitment to enhance silicon partner flexibility and differentiation in support of new edge computing opportunities in ML, AI, self-driving cars, 5G and IoT.

Arm also said that it would be offering Custom Instructions as a standard feature in future Cortex-M CPUs, which are among the most successful Arm CPUs ever, having shipped in more than 50 billion chips from Arm silicon partners to-date.