Analyst: ARM’s 64-bit architecture is "clean and elegant"

Last October, ARM disclosed technical details about its new v8 architecture – which is the first to include a 64-bit instruction set.

The next-gen architecture is expected to significantly extend the reach of ARM processors in the lucrative server market, which is currently dominated by x86 chips.

“We have been working on 64-bit processors for about 5 years now and collaborating with partners for the past three. We are now at point where all building blocks in place,” Lance Howarth, EVP of marketing at ARM told TG Daily on the sidelines of ARM TechCon 2011 in Santa Clara, California.

“We have models that are running 64-bit operating systems along with compilers. We are currently feeding everything back to the open source community and seeding with system partners. As such, we expect to see systems based on 64-bit ARM architecture hitting the market by 2013 or 2014.”

Recently, Silicon Valley tech guru David Kanter weighed in on the subject of ARM’s v8 architecture, terming it “a clean and elegant” 64-bit instruction set.

“The new AArch64 is certainly an improvement over ARMv7, with many improvements above and beyond simply extending the virtual address space to 48-bits. The most notable additions in ARMv8 are the larger and highly regular integer register file, double precision vectors with IEEE support, and new synchronization primitives with a well-defined memory ordering model,” Kanter explained in a detailed analysis published on RealWorldTech.

“Like x86, ARMv7 had a fair bit of cruft, and the architects took care to remove many of the byzantine aspects of the instruction set that were difficult to implement. The peculiar interrupt modes and banked registers are mostly gone. Predication and implicit shift operations have been dramatically curtailed. The load/store multiple instructions have also been eliminated, replaced with load/store pair. Collectively, these changes make AArch64 potentially more efficient than ARMv7 and easier to implement in modern process technology.”

Kanter also predicted that the vast majority of companies would wait for a licensable core design from ARM. However, those with the resources and expertise to design a CPU core will forge ahead and should have a time to market advantage and a potential differentiating factor – such as Applied Micro, Cavium Networks, Qualcomm, Samsung and Nvidia. 

“Certainly, the next few years should prove very interesting. The number of ARMv8 architecture licensees looks set to grow, which should inject some additional diversity into the industry. However, it is unclear whether the market is large enough to support so many companies in the long term. 

“Future ARMv8 cores will undoubtedly be found in Apple’s iPhone and iPad, along with Android devices from TI, Samsung, and others. The real question is whether ARMv8 will enable ARM’s partners to move up the value chain to servers and notebooks. However, that requires competing with Intel, which has a massive advantage in process technology over the rest of the industry,” he added.