ARM: Two Licenses for Server Processors Signed

ARM Signs ARMv8/Atlas, Cortex-A15 Licenses for Server Chips

by Anton Shilov
04/23/2012 | 10:33 PM

ARM Holdings, a leading developer of microprocessor technologies for low-power applications, said late on Monday that it has signed two licenses for its intellectual property for use in servers. One undisclosed company has licensed ARMv8-based 64-bit code-named Atlas design, whereas another major company has signed license to use ARMv7-powered 32-bit ARM Cortex-A15 technology.


"[We] have two [server] licensees there [that] we put in the earnings release, one in driving a new lead partner for Atlas and one is a Cortex-A15. [...] Obviously, these are high-end processors, they are high-value products from ARM and therefore, more likely to be sold to larger semiconductor companies with more resource to take on those sorts to a very large-scale development," said Warren East, chief executive officer of ARM, during a quarterly question and answer session with financial analysts.

There are a number of companies developing server solutions based on ARM architecture, at present we know about Applied Micro, Calxeda, Marvell, Nvidia and even Samsung Semiconductor.

Applied Micro is working on X-Gene powered by ARMv8, which means that it hardly uses Atlas implementation; Calxeda currently has ARMv7/Cortex-A9-based system-on-chip with ECC memory and other server-specific technology; Nvidia is working on code-named project Denver solution that is a mystery so far; Samsung has already launched its first Cortex-A15 SoC for consumer devices, but it is rumoured that it is working on server-specific ARM chips. Other major partners of ARM, such as Qualcomm and Texas Instruments, have not yet confirmed interest in developing server solutions.

The ARMv8 architecture consists of two main execution states, AArch64 and AArch32. The AArch64 execution state introduces a new instruction set, A64 for 64-bit processing. The AArch32 state supports the existing ARM instruction set. The key features of the current ARMv7 architecture, including TrustZone, virtualization and NEON advanced SIMD, are maintained or extended in the ARMv8 architecture.

The ARMv8 architecture will enable the development of ARM architecture compatible devices that can be designed to maximize the benefits across both 32-bit and 64-bit application areas. This will bring the advantages of energy-efficient 64-bit computing to new applications, like servers, but will also make difference for traditional ARM-based devices, e.g., tablets and smartphones. With ARMv8 chips incoming already this year, it is likely that the first actual products will become available sometimes in 2013.