LONDON ARM Holdings plc is working on a next-generation instruction set architecture to be the basis for a future set of processor cores. When introduced its capabilities and its extensions to the current architecture – ARMv7 – will be driven by applications and partners, according to a senior company executive.
However, it is not certain that the instruction set will be introduced in the 32-nm/28-nm process node for which ARM (Cambridge, England) is developing an SoC design platform.
"I don't think it is necessary for us to move to ARMv8," said Simon Segars, general manager of ARM's physical IP division. Segars said that there is plenty of scope for the current generation of ARM processor cores to take advantage of increased performance and reduced power consumption offered by the 28-nm nodes being worked on by both the IBM Common Platform group and foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
Most of the current generation of processor designs, identified under the name Cortex, are based on the ARMv7 instruction set. The only exception is the Cortex-M1, a streamlined three-stage 32-bit RISC processor intended for implementation in FPGAs.
"The next instruction set architecture will be application driven. We look at the applications, the kind of performance that requires. ARM does that in collaboration with partners," said Segars. However, he stressed that moving to new manufacturing nodes was initially about applying the benefits of such developments as high-k metal-gate and high-performance transistors to the existing products.
Segars said ARM has performed its second tape-out of some the early cells in the Common Platform 32-nm process and was working on a Cortex-M3 processor core. "We're using that as a test core because it has a simple memory system with no cache," Segars said. "Next time we'll try an ARM11 core and then the Cortex-A9, while others work on the next generation of processor cores."
Segars declined to comment on the next-generation processors or whether they would implement the ARMv8 architecture. "There's always a bunch of R&D people thinking about what comes next."
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