AMD Announces It Will Build 64-bit ARM Processors for Server Markets

Subject: Processors | October 29, 2012 - 04:53 PM |
Tagged: processors, arm, amd, 64-bit

On a not very technically reliable webcast today, AMD has announced that it will produce 64-bit processors based on the ARM architecture and combine them with the "Freedom Fabric" they acquired with the purchase of SeaMicro.

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In a move that is incredibly telling about the times we are in, but not really a surprise to those of us that follow the processor markets closely, AMD and ARM announced a partnership beyond previously discussed in public.  AMD will start production of ARM-based processors in 2014 and will be among the first to include 64-bit technology. 

The target for these processors will be the server market and AMD hopes to be at the forefront the often discussed ARM-in-the-server-world migration.  While that server opportunity size is debatable, with partners on stage like Facebook and RedHat, there is little doubt that it will have an affect on enterprise computing in the next 24 months.  AMD is hoping that its experience with the move to 64-bit technology in the x86 migration will aid them in development and migration in the ARM architecture world; one that is currently still limited to 32-bit. 

UPDATE: As being reported by Anand Shimpi this is in fact NOT an architecture license but is instead a processor license.  What does that mean?  AMD is not going to develop its own core (as Apple and NVIDIA do) but instead will fully integrate an upcoming 64-bit ARM core in new AMD products.

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Image source: EEBeat

SeaMicro's Freedom Fabric technology is another major angle that AMD has over other players in this field.  The fabric technology is meant to facilitate communication between multiple processors on a specialized bus, removing bottlenecks on the platform and network.  Dr. Lisa Su, SVP of Global Business at AMD, stated that simply connecting hundreds or thousands of ARM-based processors to each other isn't enough and moves the problem of computing management from the CPUs to the network itself.  Using Freedom Fabric, the AMD-based ARM processors would be able to much more efficiently communicate and thus maintain the promised power benefits of ARM servers.

AMD did state that they will continue to develop x86 processors going forward but you have to wonder about its dedication to that goal.  Working with ARM is a quick and easy way to get AMD into a growing market in the server world that Intel currently has no solutions for so it seems possible that this is simply a stop-gap until AMD can develop an x86-based solution.  It is hard to say for sure but for an organization in AMD's financial position, having options in multiple segments is certainly a good idea. 

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What you won't see yet is AMD's graphics technology in the ARM-based processors announced today.  This isn't an "ARM APU" but instead is a combination of SeaMicro and ARM for a very specific server workload. 

We'll have more on this announcement if anything else interesting is divulged, but you can find the entire press release from AMD after the break!

ARM, TSMC to Produce 64-bit Processors With 3D Transistors

Subject: Processors | July 24, 2012 - 12:07 PM |
Tagged: TSMC, ARMv8, arm, 64-bit, 3d transistors, 20nm

 

Yesterday ARM announced a multi-year partnership with fab TSMC to produce sub-20nm processors that utilize 3D FinFET transistors. The collaboration and data sharing between the two companies will allow the fabless ARM SoC company the ability to produce physical processors based on its designs and will allow TSMC a platform to further its process nodes and FinFET transistor technology. The first TSMC-produced processors will be based on the ARMv8 architecture and will be 64-bit compatible.

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The addition of 3D transistors will allow the ARM processors to be even more power efficient and suitable for both mobile devices. Alternatively, it could allow for higher clockspeeds at the same TDP ratings as current chips. The other big news is that the chips will be moving to a 64-bit compatible design, which is huge considering ARM processors have traditionally been 32-bit. By moving to 64-bit, ARM is positioning itself for server and workstation adoption, especially with the recent ARM-compatible Windows 8 build due to be released soon. Granted, ARM SoCs have a long way to go before taking market share from Intel and AMD in the desktop and server markets in a big way but it is slowly but surely becoming more competitive with the x86-64 giants.

TSMC’s R&D Vice President Cliff Hou stated that the collaboration between ARM and TSMC will allow TSMC to optimize its FinFET process to target “high speed, low voltage and low leakage.” ARM further qualified that the partnership would give ARM early access to the 3D transistor FinFET process that could help create advanced SoC designs and ramp up volume production.

I think this is a very positive move for ARM, and it should allow them to make much larger inroads into the higher-end computing markets and see higher adoption beyond mobile devices. On the other hand, it is going to depend on TSMC to keep up and get the process down. Considering the issues with creating enough 28nm silicon to meet demand for AMD and NVIDIA’s latest graphics cards, a sub-20nm process may be asking a lot. Here’s hoping that it’s a successful venture for both companies, however.

You can find more information in the full press release.

Source: Maximum PC

Future Frostbite Engine Based Games Will Require 64-bit OSes

Subject: General Tech | June 3, 2012 - 02:40 AM |
Tagged: gaming, frostbite, ea, bf3, 64-bit

Last month, Johan Andersson posted on twitter a tweet that stated future Frostbite engine based games in 2013 would require a 64-bit operating system. The full tweet is shown in the image below. He suggested that it would be a good idea to upgrade to Windows 8, though it is difficult to judge sarcasm in text (hehe). That bit led to a big explosion of tweets as the Internet revolted against what they thought would be required: an x64 version of Windows 8. Mr. Andersson later clarified that any recent x64 version of Windows would be fine.

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You can see the tweet on Twitter here.

The Windows 8 suggestion aside, I was very excited about the news that 64-bit Windows would be required. Currently, games are developed with both x64 and x86 versions in mind, which means that games are shackled by the limitations of the x86 (32 bit) operating system. As an example, Sins of a Solar Empire is a game that generally runs great from beginning to mid-game on large maps, but as players build up fleets of ships and have a lot of data to keep track of, the game starts to run out of memory and starts to chug–even when running the game on a 64-bit operating system. The CPU and GPU are not fully utilized, it is a RAM limitation as reported by a number of users and a situation I have found myself in numerous times as well.

32-bit operating systems (and I’m being general here) have a hard limit of about 4GB of RAM, from which the GPU, other expansion devices, and overhead steal a chunk of address space that the OS cannot use even if there is physically 4GB of RAM DIMMS in the system. With 2GB GPUs being common, that leaves a system running 32-bit OSes with 2GB of addressable system memory. From that, the OS can allocate programs, caching, and other system tasks to that 2GB of total available RAM. Modern games can easily hit 2GB or more of RAM usage, but on 32-bit systems they are severely restricted in how much they can use.

By requiring a 64-bit operating system, developers can focus on producing games that can make full use of RAM on modern systems. RTS and other strategy games are going to benefit the most, but even shooters like Battlefield (4?) will run smoother by being able to store as much data in RAM as possible without those pesky restrictions of 32-bit systems. Unfortunately, the upcoming Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion game will still suffer from RAM issues (though it is said to be managed better than previous releases) as it is being developed around the possibility of running on 32 or 64-bit OSes. Here’s hoping that the next SoaSE game will require 64-bit OSes just like Frostbite engine games will.

The best part, aside from performance benefits of course, is that the majority of gamers will not have to do anything when these games come out as they are already running a 64-bit version of Windows. Even OEMs have started loading x64 versions on pre-built systems in the last couple years (since Windows 7 and RAM became so cheap). Most gamers will be able to jump right in and enjoy the benefits immediately because gamers are inherently required to have at least somewhat recent hardware to play the latest games.

In the end, requiring 64-bit operating systems is a good thing, and hopefully more developers will follow in DICE’s footsteps. By freeing themselves from the limitations of 32-bit systems, they can focus on using gamers’ hardware to the fullest–at least until games start using more than 8TB of RAM (which would require a new version of Windows anyway as Win 7 x64 (Ultimate/Pro) can only address 192GB).

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