AMD mixes it up with ARM64 server processors

By Chris Edwards |  1 Comment  |  Posted: October 30, 2012
Topics/Categories: Blog - EDA, Embedded  |  Tags: , , , ,  | Organizations: ,

More than 20 years after trying to get into the RISC processor market, AMD is to have another go. Instead of using its own architecture as the company did with the 29K, it is drawing on the services of another company with a three-letter abbreviation as its name: ARM.

AMD is going after the server market. It sees the newly launched ARM64 as a way to help promote its plan of using heterogeneous processing architectures to take on Intel on its home ground. The deal is also an important one for ARM, which made its server ambitions clear for its expansion into 64bit processing when it previewed the architecture last year.

Given AMD’s emphasis on supercomputing fabrics as the way to link CPUs, GPUs and other accelerators together on-chip in a mixed environment, the ARM processor provides something of a Trojan horse. The ARM64 will help to convince server makers that it’s safer to break with Intel and the x86 than to stick with them long term. But the ultimate aim looks to be one where users move into an environment in which binary compatibility at the processor level becomes less and less important.

ARM64 inside but still AMD Opteron

AMD said its first ARM64-based processor will be a 64bit multicore system-on-a-chip (SoC) optimized for dense, energy-efficient servers, using the British company’s v8 architecture. So it does not look like a complete break (and the reality is that the main change is the CPU core), AMD is sticking with the Opteron brand. Targeted for production in 2014, the processor will integrate the AMD SeaMicro Freedom on-chip fabric.

“AMD led the data center transition to mainstream 64bit computing with AMD64, and with our ambidextrous strategy we will again lead the next major industry inflection point by driving the widespread adoption of energy-efficient 64bit server processors based on both the x86 and ARM architectures,” said Rory Read, president and CEO of AMD.

Nathan Brookwood, research fellow at Insight 64, said: “Over the next decade, the purveyors of these established architectures will each seek to extend their presence into market segments dominated by the other. The path on which AMD has now embarked will allow it to offer products based on both x86 and ARM architectures, a capability no other semiconductor manufacturer can likely match.”

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