Fujitsu to Leverage ARM's big.Little Architecture in SoCs

ARM's big.Little architecture is designed to bring either high performance or high efficiency to end users' systems, depending on the workload.

Fujitsu Semiconductor will develop chips for consumer devices and industrial systems based on ARM’s big.Little architecture.

Fujitsu officials announced July 2 that the company will leverage ARM’s dual-core Cortex-A15 processor, dual-core Cortex-A7 chip and Mali-T624 GPU for a wide range of systems as well as for visualization systems that enable users to better control, through on-screen graphics, both data and programs.

Leveraging ARM’s big.Little architecture will enable Fujitsu to create a system-on-a-chip (SoC) that can offer organizations both high performance and high energy efficiency, depending on the workload needs, according to Mitsugu Naito, executive vice president of Fujitsu’s Advanced Products Business Unit.

“Being able to bring a flexible, high-performance solution to address the dynamic market associated with visual computing is vital for Fujitsu Semiconductor,” Naito said in a statement. “The energy-efficient pairing of ARM Cortex CPUs in a big.LITTLE configuration with the market-leading performance and GPU Compute functionality offered by the Mali-T624 GPU opens up a wide range of opportunities for the features offered to end consumers and industrial applications.”

ARM-designed low-power chips can be found in most consumer mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, as well as many industrial and embedded systems. ARM designs the SoCs and then licenses them to the likes of Samsung, Qualcomm, Nvidia and Fujitsu, which can then add their own features and sell the chips on the market.

In 2011, ARM officials introduced their big.Little architecture at the same time they launched the Cortex-A7 CPU. The big.Little design addresses users’ demands for greater performance as well as longer battery life in their devices. In the architecture, both a Cortex-A7 and a Cortex-A15 reside on the same SoC. The lower-power Cortex-A7 is used for basic tasks like social media, audio playback and calling, and for running the operating system, all of which don’t need a tremendous amount of power.

The Cortex-A15 is used for more compute-intense workloads, such as navigation and gaming. ARM’s big.Little multiprocessing software selects the right CPU for the right job, a process that is automatic and transparent to the user.

According to ARM officials, a quad-core ARM system leveraging the big.Little architecture gains up to 70 percent energy savings without having to ramp back on the performance.

Steven Willis, senior principal engineer for ARM’s System Design Division, in a June 20 post on the company’s blog site gave an overview of the power management technology inside the big.Little architecture.

Both the Cortex CPUs and Mali GPUs have been designed to handle consumers’ growing expectations of strong user experiences and visual interfaces, with tasks being assigned to the optimal processor across the system, according to ARM officials. The GPUs can be used for both graphics and compute tasks, they said.

“The capabilities of next-generation ARM Cortex and Mali GPUs in concert will make innovative features possible for consumers and businesses with market-leading energy efficiency at the system level,” Pete Hutton, executive vice president and general manager of ARM’s Media Processing Division, said in a statement.

Fujitsu officials did not say when the new SoCs with the big.Little capabilities will hit the market.