by Ilya Gavrichenkov
11/24/2010 | 10:15 PM
ARM, the developer of microprocessor technologies that power chips inside various low power consumer electronics, is secretly developing a 64-bit core that will allow the company's partners to design truly server multi-core solutions that support 4GB and more memory and can theoretically compete against AMD Opteron and Intel Xeon processors.
Sources close to the company revealed in a conversation with IDG News Service agency that ARM has already created a 64-bit microprocessor design and that it has also demonstrated samples of chips based on the design to its partners. The announcement of the new central processing unit is projected to occur sometimes in late November or early December, 2010, just shortly from now.
ARM did not comment on the information and said that it had not unveiled its roadmap beyond the recently disclosed Cortex-A15 "Eagle" design. The latter does support a number of server-specific functionality and also promises major increases in performance, but it is also 32-bit and thus cannot compete against server chips from leading manufacturers.
The Cambridge, UK-based designer of processing technologies has been talking about possibility to create a server chip featuring low-power ARM architecture for years now. Recently Marvell, one of the primary adopters of ARM, unveiled its new line of quad-core Armada XP system-on-chips that support server-oriented functionality, but which does not support 64-bit capability. While the SoC may find its place insider certain low-power servers, its adoption by broad industry is limited.
In case the information is correct and ARM is indeed ready with its 64-bit capable designs, it may open up doors for the company to the mainstream server market eventually. But since development of actual processors from ARM's technologies takes time, servers powered by 64-bit ultra low-power chips are not exactly around the corner.
ARM's success even in the space of low-power servers is not cast on stone. Both AMD and Intel are also working hard to decrease power consumption of their chips and the situation on the market when ARM's partners are ready with 64-bit CPUs is not known. Furthermore, servers require not only low consumption of energy, but a favorable performance-per-watt ratio. In case certain cores cannot deliver necessary amount of performance, then another server should be added, which increases power consumption rather tangibly.