AMD Licenses ARM Technology: AMD Leans on ARM for Security

Subject: Processors | June 13, 2012 - 10:00 AM |
Tagged: TrustZone, hsa, Cortex-A5, cortex, arm, APU, amd, AFDS

Last year after that particular AFDS, there was much speculation that AMD and ARM would get a whole lot closer.  Today we have confirmed that in two ways.  The first is that AMD and ARM are founding members of the HSA Foundation.  This endeavor is a rather ambitious project that looks to make it much easier for programmers to access the full computer power of a CPU/GPU combo, or as AMD likes to call them, the APU.  The second confirmation is one that has been theorized for quite some time, but few people have actually hit upon the actual implementation.  This second confirmation is that AMD is licensing ARM cores and actually integrating them into their x86 based APUs.

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AMD and ARM are serious about working with each other.  This is understandable as both of them are competing tooth and nail with Intel.
 
ARM has a security functionality that they have been working with for several years now.  This is called ARM TrustZone.  It is a set of hardware and software products that provide a greater amount of security in data transfer and transactions.  The hardware basis is built into the ARM licensed designs and is implemented in literally billions of devices (not all of them enabled).  The biggest needs that this technology addresses are that of secure transactions and password enabled logins.  Money is obviously quite important, but with identity theft and fraud on the rise, secure logins to personal information or even social sites are reaching the same level of importance as large monetary transactions.
 
AMD will actually be implementing a Cortex-A5 processor into AMD APUs that will handle the security aspects of ARM TrustZone.  The A5 is the smallest Cortex processor available, and that would make sense to use it in a full APU so it will not take up an extreme amount of die space.  When made on what I would assume to be a 28 nm process, a single A5 processor would likely take up as little as 10 to 15 mm squared of space on the die.
 
This is not exactly the licensing agreement that many analysts had expected from AMD.  It is a start though.  I would generally expect AMD to be more aggressive in the future with offerings based on ARM technologies.  If we remember some time ago Rory Read of AMD pronounced their GPU technology as “the crown jewel” of their IP lineup, it makes little sense for AMD to limit this technology just to standalone GPUs and x86 based APUs.  If AMD is serious about heterogeneous computing, I would expect them to eventually move into perhaps not the handheld ARM market initially, but certainly with more server level products based on 64 bit ARM technology.
 
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Cortex-A5: coming to an AMD APU near you in 2013/2014.  Though probably not in quad core fashion as shown above.
 
AMD made a mistake once by selling off their ultra-mobile graphics group, Imageon.  This was sold off to Qualcomm, who is now a major player in the ARM ecosystem with their Snapdragon products based on Adreno graphics (“Adreno” is an anagram of “Radeon”).  With the release of low powered processors in both the Brazos and Trinity line, AMD is again poised to deliver next generation graphics to the low power market.  Now the question is, what will that graphics unit be attached to?
 
 

AMD Strengthens Security Solutions through Technology Partnership with ARM

– Industry-first Collaboration to Extend ARM TrustZone Security Technology into x86-
based AMD Offerings, Enabling More Secure Computing Experiences and Significantly
Expanding the Security Ecosystem –

SUNNYVALE, Calif. — June 13, 2012 — AMD (NYSE: AMD) today announced
it will integrate a new security solution into its future products to meet the increasing
need to provide consumers and businesses with secure access to their content and
worry-free online transactions. Through a strategic technology partnership with ARM,
AMD will integrate the established ARM® TrustZone® technology into future Accelerated
Processing Units (APUs) via a system-on-a-chip (SoC) design methodology. This
industry-first collaboration will help accelerate broader ecosystem support by aligning
x86 hardware with the world’s most broadly-adopted mobile security ecosystem.

By adopting the industry-standard approach to security that TrustZone
technology embodies, AMD and ARM will provide a consistent approach to security
spanning billions of Internet-connected mobile devices, tablets, PCs and servers −
whether they are powered by ARM processor-based solutions or AMD x86 APUs. AMD
plans to provide development platforms that have TrustZone security features on select
APUs in 2013, expanding further across its product portfolio in 2014. In a presentation
this week at the AMD Fusion Developer Summit 2012 (AFDS), AMD Senior Vice
President and Chief Information Officer Mike Wolfe described AMD’s vision to advance
computing security by enhancing AMD’s existing security technologies. This is expected
to include developing a platform security processor using an ARM Cortex™-A5 CPU that
features TrustZone technology, to monitor and help protect against malicious access to
sensitive data and operations at the hardware level.

“With AMD’s support for, and inclusion in, the expanding TrustZone ecosystem,
consumers and businesses can rest assured their data and content are secured by an
industry-standard security solution that spans a multitude of devices and operating
systems,” said Wolfe. “This example of AMD’s ambidextrous strategy, which leverages
our history of x86 and graphics innovation while also embracing other technologies and
intellectual property, will help drive a more secure computing experience for our
consumer and businesses customers.”

“As technology becomes more important to our everyday lives, security needs to
be present in every single device. The challenge that the industry faces is how to make
this a reality,” said Ian Drew, executive vice president, strategy, ARM. “Through this
technology partnership with AMD, and the broadening of the ARM TrustZone technology
ecosystem, we’re making another important step towards a solution. The aim is to make
security accessible and consistent for consumers and business users across all
computing devices.”

Industry Support Demonstrates Market Need

In recognition of the first time hardware will be aligned to an industry-standard
security solution between multiple processor architectures, the technology partnership
has garnered wide support from industry leaders and influencers.
“At Alipay, we strive to provide safe and reliable online payment services to
hundreds of millions of registered users for the tens of millions of transactions they make
every day,” said Stephen Zhu, senior director, Alipay. “By incorporating security at the
hardware level, AMD and ARM are providing an added level of protection and taking us
one step closer to achieving this goal.”

“Hardly a week goes by without the emergence of another scary story regarding
stolen identities or some other computer-related security breach – such as last week’s
hack of social career networking website LinkedIn that resulted in millions of stolen
passwords,” observed Nathan Brookwood, Research Fellow at Insight 64. “The bad guys
have figured out that it’s easier to steal money from a bank’s computers than from the
bank itself. AMD’s move to integrate ARM’s TrustZone technology into future APUs will
allow systems containing those APUs to attain the same level of hardware-enforced
security as today’s most advanced devices, and will allow the users of those systems to
sleep more soundly at night.

ARM TrustZone Brings Security to Millions of Devices

ARM TrustZone technology - a system-wide approach to security - is a key
component of the ARM architecture and is integrated into the ARM Cortex-A processor
series. Launched in 2004, TrustZone is a result of ongoing co-development that ARM
carries out with a wide range of companies and has been implemented in a wide array of
devices to date. The aim of the TrustZone ecosystem is to drive industry alignment and
scalability. This will enable billions of TrustZone technology-based devices to meet the
system security needs of consumers, service providers, enterprises and device
manufacturers.

Source: AMD
June 13, 2012 | 01:51 PM - Posted by Mark (not verified)

That tidbit about AMD selling their mobile unit to Qualcomm almost made me laugh myself out of my seat. Nice to know.

June 13, 2012 | 03:59 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"TrustZone"? It seems more like "Distrust Zone" to me. If it isn't about distrust, why can't I run the same algorithms in the only CPU that any computer actually needs?

June 13, 2012 | 05:40 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

If you're that dumb, at least just sit back and watch the pretty colors on the screen. Opening your mouth only makes you look like a total and utter moron.

June 13, 2012 | 04:59 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

TO..."little"...to frigg'in..."late.

June 14, 2012 | 05:21 AM - Posted by Sublym3 (not verified)

How would someone using Windows x86/x64 take advantage of this?

I mean it sounds like you need Software/OS Vendors (Microsoft, itunes and Steam etc) and the payment processors (Visa, mastercard, Paypal? etc) plus the websites to be on board for something like this.

Now that I think about it, isnt this just like the Trusted Platform Module? is this a replacement or an addition?

June 14, 2012 | 11:24 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The 10-15mm^2 is far off. According to ARM an A5 with both caches and
NEON is less than 1mm^2 on a 40 nm process.

See this: http://www.arm.com/products/processors/cortex-a/cortex-a5.php?tab=Perfor...

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