ARM Signs 50th License for 64-Bit ARMv8-A Design

ARM officials say the licensees include most or all of the top smartphone, tablet and server chip makers.


ARM officials say they are seeing continued momentum behind the company's 64-bit chip design, noting the signing of the 50th license agreement for the ARMv8-A architecture.

In all, 27 companies have signed agreements around the system-on-a-chip (SoC) design and the Cortex-A50 family of 64-bit chips, representing a broad range of chip makers in such varied arenas as smartphones and tablets, servers, networking gear and consumer electronics, according to ARM.

SoCs designed by ARM and made by the likes of Samsung, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments are found in most smartphones and tablets today, dominating a market in which rival Intel is working aggressively to gain traction. The ARMv8-A architecture not only brings 64-bit capabilities to the company's designs, but also enables devices to more effectively run existing 32-bit applications, according to Noel Hurley, general manager of ARM's processor division.

"Tablets and smartphones are quickly replacing PCs for many tasks and the ARMv8-A Cortex-A57 and Cortex-A53-based chips developed by our partners support this transition with important enhancements in performance and efficiency," Hurley said in a statement.

At the same time, ARM officials see an opportunity in bringing its low-power chip designs into the server space, where demand for high performance and energy efficiency is only going to continue growing.

ARM officials and the company's manufacturing partners for several years have been boasting that ARM-based server chips will make inroads into the market for highly dense, small servers that are increasingly being used in massive hyperscale data centers, such as the ones run by Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and other Web-based businesses, and that ARM will be able to chip away at Intel's dominance in server chips.

A number of ARM partners are developing server SoCs based on the ARMv8-A architecture. Advanced Micro Devices plans to release its Opteron A1100 "Seattle" chips—which will offer four to eight Cortex-A57 cores—later this year, and in July unveiled a development kit aimed at programmers. AMD officials also have said the company will eventually make custom 64-bit ARM chips for customers, and in May announced "Project SkyBridge," which over the next two years will include enabling x86 and ARM chips to run on the same motherboard with few tweaks. In 2016, AMD will introduce the first of the company's "K12" chips that will include an ARM-based core developed in-house.

Other chip vendors adopting ARM's 64-bit architecture for server SoCs include Applied Micro, Cavium and Marvell Technologies. However, the push into the data center has suffered some setbacks, including pioneer Calxeda shutting its doors in December 2013 and Samsung and Nvidia reportedly backing off plans to offer ARM-based server chips.

Hewlett-Packard continues to plan for upcoming Moonshot servers running on ARM-based SoCs, though the first models in the family of ultra-dense server modules are based on x86 chips from Intel and AMD. Dell officials say they are still ready to offer ARM-based servers for customers that want them, though they also have said the market for such systems is uncertain.

Among the chip manufactures that have licensed the ARMv8-A technology are all of the top 10 vendors for smartphone processors, nine of the top 10 manufacturers for tablet chips, four of the top five chip makers for consumer electronics, according to ARM. In addition, ARM has nabbed four of the top five chip vendors for servers and networking gear, and eight silicon makers in China.