LONDON Warren East, chief executive officer of processor technology licensor ARM Holdings plc, hinted that a core optimized for multiprocessing is being designed within the company’s Cortex range, as he discussed the company’s financial results for 2005.
Cortex is the family name used by ARM (Cambridge, England) for processor cores which follow the latest version of the ARM instruction set, called ARMv7. The company has previously disclosed the existence of three cores; the Cortex-M3, codenamed Sandcat, is intended as an engine for future microcontrollers; the Cortex-A8, codenamed Tiger, is expected to be ARM’s highest performance microprocessor core; and the Cortex-R4, codenamed Serval-E, is a processor of intermediate complexity aimed at embedded applications.
When it was pointed out to East that none of these Cortex processors has a declared multiprocessing capability, and that ARM’s only current multiprocessor is the ARM11-MP, which implements the older ARMv6 instruction set, East said: “At DAC last year I was on a keynote panel and I made the point that multiprocessing is the future and a way to achieve performance at lower clock frequency and power consumption. It’s not the only way forward but it is one of them.”
East added that Mike Muller ARM’s chief technology officer had also been attending conferences and other events that indicated ARM’s commitment to multiprocessing.
"We have indicated that we will have more multiprocessors,” East said declining to indicate when or where they might come in ARM’s product range. “The Cortex family is not finished. There will be other cores. It is something which is for the future,” East added.
ARM has been investigating the benefits of multiprocessing for some time but with PC processor makers Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. now pursuing multiprocessing aggressively and putting four and eight cores together monolithically, ARM could be overtaken. It has one multiprocessing core available for licensing, the ARM11-MP and said it had signed up an additional licensee for the ARM11-MP in the fourth quarter of 2005.
In declining to speak about ARM’s next multiprocessing core East also withheld the catty codename that ARM may, or may not, have chosen for a Cortex multiprocessor.