Startup Develops x86 Emulator for ARM Microprocessors

ARM May Get Serious Weapon Against x86

by Anton Shilov
10/02/2012 | 09:25 PM

Engineers from Elbrus Technologies are working on special software that would enable programs written for x86 architecture microprocessors to run on systems powered by chips with architecture from ARM Holdings. In case the emulation software proves to be efficient, it could give ARM a huge boost on the market of servers.


Many companies nowadays, including Applied Micro, Calxeda, Cavium, Marvell, Nvidia and Samsung, are developing server-class ARM-architecture processors. However, the impact that such chips can have on server market is relatively limited as they cannot run mainstream programs designed for x86 chips made by Advanced Micro Devices or Intel Corp.

The emulation software of Elbrus Technologies currently delivers 40% of native ARM performance. The company believes it could reach 80% native ARM performance or greater by the end of 2014, reports EETimes web-site. Considering the fact that ARM-based central processing units (CPUs) are generally slower than x86 chips, the emulation software is still not absolutely the best way to drive ARM processors into servers.

"Currently, we are creating a binary translator which allows us to run applications. Implementation of an optimization process will start in parallel later this year - we are expecting both parts be ready in the end of 2014. The major concern for us is lack of software developers with binary translation expertise. This is also the reason for us to estimate project release in late 2014," said Anatoly Konukhov, a member of the Elbrus Technologies team.

The development of the emulator software began in 2010. Last summer, Elbrus Tech got $1.3 million in funding from the Russian investment fund Skolkovo and MCST, a veteran Russian processor and software developer.