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Thursday, October 27, 2011

ARM moves into 64bit

Prototype systems using ARMv8 in 2014

By Nick Flaherty

Cambridge processor core designer ARM has disclosed technical details of its new ARMv8 architecture, the first ARM architecture to include a 64bit instruction set. ARMv8 extends virtual addressing but keeps the backward compatibility with the 32bit ARMv7 architecture which is used for cores such as the Cortex-A9 and Cortex-A15 processors.
The ARM architecture spans the full range of electronic devices and equipment, from tiny sensors through to large scale infrastructure equipment but the move to 64bit processing will expand the reach of ARM processors into consumer and enterprise applications. 
The ARMv8 architecture consists of two main execution states, AArch64 and AArch32. The AArch64 execution state introduces a new instruction set, A64 for 64-bit processing. The AArch32 state supports the existing ARM instruction set. The key features of the current ARMv7 architecture, including TrustZone, virtualization and the NEON SIMD instructions are maintained or extended in the ARMv8 architecture.
“With our increasingly connected world, the market for 32bit processing continues to expand and evolve creating new opportunities for 32bit ARMv7 based processors in embedded, real-time and open application platforms.” said Mike Muller, CTO at ARM. “We believe the ARMv8 architecture is ideally suited to enable the ARM partnership to continue to grow in 32bit application spaces and bring diverse, innovative and energy-efficient solutions to 64bit processing markets.”
The ARM compiler and Fast Models with ARMv8 support have already been made available to key ecosystem partners. Initial support for a range of open source operating systems, applications and third-party tools is already in development.
A key opportunity for ARM is the ability to run the latest 64bit versions of Microsoft Windows operating system. "ARM is an important partner for Microsoft," said KD Hallman, general manager at Microsoft. "The evolution of ARM to support a 64bit architecture is a significant development for ARM and for the ARM ecosystem. We look forward to witnessing this technology's potential to enhance future ARM-based solutions."
Chip vendors will also be able to make use of the 64bit capabilities in applications such as tablet PCs, where NVIDIA is pushing hard with its Tegra ARM-based family. “The combination of NVIDIA’s leadership in energy-efficient, high-performance processing and the new ARMv8 architecture will enable game-shifting breakthroughs in devices across the full range of computing – from smartphones through to supercomputers,” said Dan Vivoli, senior vice president at NVIDIA.
“The current growth trajectory of data centers, driven by the viral explosion of social media and cloud computing, will continue to accelerate. The ability to handle this data increase with energy-efficient solutions is vital,” said Vinay Ravuri, vice president and general manager of AppliedMicro’s Processor Business Unit. “The ARM 64-bit architecture provides the right balance of performance, efficiency and cost to scale to meet these growing demands and we are very excited to be a leading partner in implementing solutions based on the ARMv8 architecture.”
The ARMv8 architecture specifications describing all aspects of the ARMv8 architecture are available now to partners under license. ARM will disclose processors based on ARMv8 during 2012, with consumer and enterprise prototype systems expected in 2014.
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