LONDON – Processor and related IP licensor ARM Holdings plc has disclosed the names, but little else, on the roadmap of cores it is working on in 2012 and revealed a gods and giants theme. The roadmap includes high performance processors, a low power microcontroller and graphics cores.
The codenames for the next-generation graphics cores are Skrymir and Tyr. Skrymir is a giant in Norse mythology and Tyr was a god of war and single combat and whose day is Tuesday. ARM paired these two cores together in a slide set shown to analysts as it presented its financial results for 4Q11.
This might suggest that Skrymir/Tyr will be the means by which ARM will deliver its big-little processing approach in the graphics domain.
In the processor domain ARM offers paired A15 and A7 cores as the big and little elements. For most of the time light computational load applications run on the A7 while the A15 is switched off. As the computational load increases clock frequency is wound up until eventually the application moves to the A15 and the A7 is switched off. The movement of tasks between paired A7 and A15 cores is triggered by the same system that drives the dynamic voltage and frequency scaling.
Warren East, CEO of ARM, described the Skrymir and Tyr cores as being about high performance and energy efficiency, but said further details would be released later in 2012. The cores are intended to cover a range of applications from phones though mobile computing to consumer electronics and ARM has signed lead partners for the development of the cores. When asked if the close coupling of the names, in the form Skrymir/Tyr, indicated a big-little pair East declined to answer directly but said: "The plan will be to bring the big-little approach to graphics."
ARM has chosen a classical giant and god for the names of its next-generation high-end processing cores. Atlas and Apollo will implement the ARMv8-A architecture which supports 64-bit computing. The chips are being designed for likely implementation in 20-nm manufacturing process technology and to address applications from servers down to smartphones. Four architecture licensees, including AppliedMicro and Nvidia, are signed up and ARM has two lead partners signed for next generation processor cores, ARM said.
ARM's linking of the names as Atlas/Apollo could again suggest that Atlas is intended to be the "big" and Apollo the "little" in a big-little pairing. "We expect Atlas, Apollo to come into volume in 2014 and at that time it will be a 20-nm world out there," said East.
The fifth chip in the 2012 roadmap is neither god nor giant. The chip, codenamed Flycatcher, is part of ARM's Cortex-M series and will be the smallest and lowest power ARM processor core available. ARM has one lead partner signed up to help the company develop the core.
East said the ultralow power Flycatcher would be a natural fit in intelligent sensors and for nodes in wireless sensor networks. "ARM7 Thumb was a low power core back in the day. Cortex-M0 is Thumb2 product and even lower power and Flycatcher will be even lower power; inherently low power," said East.
I can't wait to see the numbers on the 64bit machine! When is the 64 chips coming out, did they say? I am wondering how well the switch from little to big works from the perspective of time for context switching? I like the idea of low performance/power switching to high performance/power modes, nice way to try and have your cake and eat it too.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.