Although ARM is clearly late in the game with its 64-bit architecture, the company seems to be very optimistic about its prospects in the server business. ARM hopes for a serious impact on the server market starting in 2014 when its 64-bit processor design reaches the market, according to the company's chief executive officer.
ARM initiated development of its ARMv8 64-bit architecture back in 2008 and formally introduced it in 2011. Originally, the company expected first prototype servers powered by ARM to emerge in 2014, but seeing efforts from HP and Calxeda as well as enthusiasm from other chip designers (such as Nvidia), ARM believes that in 2014 it will already be able to have an influence on the server market.
Calxeda/ARM-powered prototype HP server "project Moonshot".
ARM admits that it had initiated development of 64-bit architecture too late, which is why even its latest Cortex-A15 "Eagle" core will not be able to compete against server central processing units (CPUs) from Advanced Micro Devices and Intel Corp., whose x86 chips dominate datacenters these days. Moreover, even in 2014 it will be pretty hard for ARM to compete against them since both will be established players not only on server market in general, but on the now emerging cloud server market in particular.
"There's a chunk of other server applications where the software has been written on the assumption that there's a 64-bit processor there. Today ARM is a 32-bit processor and so we just have to accept the fact that those server workloads where the assumption is 64-bit, we can't do it. If 10 years ago we said we are going to be in the server space in 2012, then maybe if we started doing something 64-bit a bit sooner, we would be a bit soon. But not to worry, I think it's the right timing," said Warren East, chief executive officer of ARM, in an interview with IDG News.
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.