Out on a branch, speculating about possible architectural flaws

Subject: General Tech | December 10, 2018 - 12:38 PM |
Tagged: spectre, splitspectre, speculator, security, arm, Intel, amd

The discovery of yet another variant of Spectre vulnerability is not good news for already exhausted security experts or reporters, but there is something new in this story which offers a glimmer of hope.  A collaborative team of researchers from Northeastern University and IBM found this newest design law using an automatic bug finding tool they designed, called Speculator.

They designed the tool to get around the largest hurdle security researchers face, the secrecy of AMD, Intel and ARM who are trying to keep the recipe for their special sauce secret, and rightly so.  Protecting their intellectual properly is paramount to their stockholders and there are arguments about the possible effectiveness of security thorough obscurity in protecting consumers from those with nefarious intent but it does come at a cost for those hunting bugs for good. 

Pop by The Register for details on how Speculator works.

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"SplitSpectre is a proof-of-concept built from Speculator, the team's automated CPU bug-discovery tool, which the group plans to release as open-source software."

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Source: The Register

Chrome plated Windows? Microsoft is making like a magpie

Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2018 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: Project Anaheim, microsoft, rumours, chrome, chromium, arm, alphabet

There are two very interesting rumours about Microsoft circulating the intertubes today, both involving Alphabet's Chrome products.  The most shocking is that they have finally internalized the fact that when people refer to Edge as "the one you use to download Chrome with", they are not kidding.  This has lead to the possibility that they may be designing a Chromium-based browser, under the moniker Project Anaheim, to replace Edge as their embedded browser.  They have been trying to get Chrome add-ins to work on Edge with little success, so this would certainly resolve that, unless they intend to focus on making Windows Store apps work with Chrome.

The second rumour signals another big internal change, though in some ways it is less shocking than the previous rumour.  Via Slashdot we have heard more details on Windows Lite, which will replace products like Windows 10 S and RT.  It will be able to run on any processor, up to and including Qualcomm and other ARM based processors and is likely targeting the same market as Chromebooks currently do.  It looks to have a new GUI built off of the mysterious Windows Core OS.  Follow the link for more info on Windows Lite as well as Andromeda, which is not dead yet.

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" As we've previously told you, Microsoft is already working on Chromium in order to help Google port it over to ARM-based Windows machines, such is the power that the world's top browser holds. "

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Source: The Inquirer

ARM, AMD, AWS and Annapurna Labs

Subject: General Tech | November 28, 2018 - 01:46 PM |
Tagged: arm, amd, AWS, Annapurna Labs, graviton

You may have never heard of Graviton before, but chances are you've interacted with one on Amazon.  The current chip which powers many AWS instances is based on a Cortex-A72 design and runs 2.3GHz and was almost designed by AMD.  Instead, AMD was focusing on Zen design and were not able to commit enough resources to the development of the ARM chip, which is why Amazon chose to buy Annapurna Labs outright and have the chip designed in house.  We did see that AMD ARM chip, the A1100, which did not see much market success.

There is quite a story behind this, catch up on it over at The Register.

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"Up until early 2015, Amazon and AMD were working together on a 64-bit Arm server-grade processor to deploy in the internet titan's data centers. However, the project fell apart when, according to one well-placed source today, "AMD failed at meeting all the performance milestones Amazon set out."

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Source: The Register

The Model A is new again thanks to Raspberry

Subject: Systems | November 23, 2018 - 02:40 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi 3, Model A+, Cortex A53, arm

The newest Raspberri Pi 3 is under review over at Phoronix, the Model A+ which brings new hardware at the same $25 price point as the last Model A did.  It is powered by the Broadcom BCM2837B0 SoC, with four Cortex-A53 cores running at 1.4GHz.  There is only 512MB of RAM compared to the 1GB of the $35 Model B, and there is no LAN port so make sure you know what your project's requirements are when choosing which one to purchase. 

As long as those limitations do not prevent you from using the Model A+, the performance results show this is a great deal.

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"I was able to snag a Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ for $25 with availability appearing to be better than some of the past Raspberry Pi releases. Here are some initial benchmarks of the RPi 3 Model A Plus compared to a few other ARM boards."

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Source: Phoronix

That is not dead which can eternal lie; Spectre rises again

Subject: General Tech | November 15, 2018 - 12:29 PM |
Tagged: meltdown, spectre, amd, arm, Intel

Happy Thursday, here's some new Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities to cheer you up, including the first Meltdown flaw to which AMD chips are vulnerable to delayed exception handling.  That brings the tally to seven Meltdown and 14 Spectre flaw variants which effect modern processor architecture; the only good news is not all chips are vulnerable to all flaws.  Intel told The Register that these flaws can be mitigated with software while the researchers pointed out that these vulnerabilities were successfully carried out on patched systems; AMD declined to comment.

Of course, that doesn't matter if you choose not to install the software patches due to the performance hit which is a side effect to many of those mitigations.

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"Computer security researchers have uncovered yet another set of transient execution attacks on modern CPUs that allow a local attacker to gain access to privileged data, fulfilling predictions made when the Spectre and Meltdown flaws were reported at the beginning of the year."

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Source: The Register

Podcast #518 - Join us this week for discussion on the NVIDIA RTX 2070, ARM Neoverse, and more!

Subject: General Tech | October 18, 2018 - 11:06 AM |
Tagged: rtx 2070 black edition, rtx 2070 armor, RTX 2070, podcast, nvidia, Neoverse, msi, evga, arm

PC Perspective Podcast #518 - 10/18/18

Join us this week for discussion on the NVIDIA RTX 2070, ARM Neoverse, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Allyn Malventano, Jeremy Hellstrom, Ken Addison, Jim Tanous

Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg

Program length: 59:46

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Picks of the Week:
    1. 0:51:10 Allyn: Flashlights. Have them.
    2. 0:52:45 Ken: Cheap VESA Arm
  4. Closing/outro

ARM Unveils "Neoverse" Infrastructure

Subject: General Tech | October 16, 2018 - 01:44 PM |
Tagged: UMC, TSMC, Samsung, Neoverse, cosmos, cortex, arm, Ares, A76, 7nm, 7+nm, 5nm

This morning ARM is announcing their new design and technology push called "ARM Neoverse". Neoverse is aimed at providing scalable solutions utilizing ARM technology from the edge to the core datacenter. ARM obviously is well known for the end user solutions that we see in phones, tablets, and now laptops. What most do not realize is that ARM has a significant reach in much of the infrastructure that powers the entire user experience. ARM currently holds around a 30% marketshare for powering high end routers and switches used at the enterprise level. The type of equipment we are talking about here are not the home routers or generic switches, but rather the heavy lifting units that literally power the internet after the requests get out of users houses or from their mobile devices.
 
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The Neoverse roadmap consists of four platforms stretching from now til 2021. Each platform is expected to receive around a 30% increase in overall performance due to a combination of architectural changes as well as process technology improvements. The current architecture is codenamed "Cosmos" and it is based on current 16nm parts. This is followed by the "Ares" platform which will utilize the latest Cortex A76 designs and 7nm process. In 2020 this will transition to the "Zeus" platform which will leverage the latest improvements in 7nm+ process technologies. Finally they expect to release the "Poseidon" platform in 2021 which will be based on a cutting edge 5nm process.
 
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ARM has been slowly building up their technology base through the past several decades to include more and more functionality and features across their entire portfolio. Of great interest is how seriously ARM considers security. The latest designs include some of the most robust security measures integrated on chips. From TrustZone to CryptoIsland, ARM has a very well thought out and implemented security suite that is absolutely necessary for the next generation of connected devices. This again extends from handheld devices to the depths of the data center. We are surrounded by stories of compromised devices and software, so having the extensive security measures designed from the ground up available to partners helps to cement ARM's place in trusted computing.
 
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The amount of IP available to partners is impressive. ARM not only offers the core technologies of CPUs and GPUs, but also the latest machine learning units and encryption accelerators. The fabric that holds it all together is also flexible and scalable from mobile solutions to 100G+ ethernet. This also includes memory controllers that can scale up to 8 units delivering TBs/sec of bandwidth.
 
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It really is impressive to see how far ARM has come in the past decade since the launch of the first iPhone. What was once considered a small, but still important CPU design firm is now the power behind billions of shipping products that power the mobile experience and beyond. ARM has taken the momentum from its first big successes and is now a major force for change that stretches far beyond those initial mobile and low power products. The Neoverse only adds to this. ARM has already found success in powering much of the infrastructure of our modern day networks, but this is looking to take things to another level. Partners will have access to cutting edge IP and solutions to quickly bring specialized and high performing products to market in very short periods of time.
 
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Going forward we will start hearing more about these Neoverse implementations starting with current Cosmos products and spreading quickly throughout the next year with Ares. ARM has so far continued to execute on their roadmaps and provide new and compelling products to their partners on a yearly basis. This does not look to change anytime soon.
Source: ARM

Podcast #516 - ASUS ROG STRIX RTX 2080 Ti, AMD 7nm, and more!

Subject: General Tech | October 4, 2018 - 11:14 AM |
Tagged: podcast, asus, ROG, rtx, 2080 Ti, amd, microsoft, surface, gigabyte, Intel, Thinkpad, yoga, Ampere, Xilinx, Versal, arm, GOG.com, cooler master, C700M

PC Perspective Podcast #516 - 10/04/18

Join us this week for discussion on ASUS ROG STRIX RTX 2080 Ti, AMD 7nm, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Allyn Malventano, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath

Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg

Program length: 1:20:42

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. 0:33:05 Thanks to RXBAR for supporting PC Perspective. Get 25% off your first order at RXbar.com/pcper promo code pcper
  4. Picks of the Week:
    1. 1:14:00 Jeremy: cheap canadian ryzen
    2. 1:17:15 Allyn: Shellshock Live
  5. Closing/outro
 

Arm announces free Cortex-M processor designs for use with Xilinx FPGAs

Subject: General Tech | October 1, 2018 - 12:03 AM |
Tagged: Xilinx, RISC-V, FPGA, cortex-m3, cortex-m1, cortex-m, arm

Today, at the Xilinx Developer Forum event in San Jose, Arm has announced an expansion of their DesignStart program to offer Cortex M-series capabilities to customers of Xilinx FPGAs.

Arm DesignStart is a program which allows smaller customers to gain quick access to Arm IP. Developers can access the full Cortex-M0, Cortex-M3, and subsystem RTL designs for evaluation and integration into their products.

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If a customer decides to utilize this IP in a commercialized product, they are then subject to a success-based royalty model. This is a similar business model that we've seen 3D game engines like Unreal Engine and Unity move to, where the development tools are free, but the engine holders are paid a percentage of unit sales.

Today's announcement in conjunction with Xilinx, removes the royalty requirement traditionally associated with DesignStart. Developers will gain access to Arm Cortex-M1, an optimized version of Cortex-M0 specifically for usage in FPGAs, Cortex-M3 soft processor IP, as well as software toolchain improvements. Arm IP has been integrated into the Xilinx Vivado Design Suite, allowing for "drag and drop" integration of Arm Cortex-M processors and Xilinx FPGAs.

At a time when the competition in the embedded space is stronger than ever from the likes of the RISC-V foundation, this could be an excellent opportunity for Arm to attract new customers to their ecosystem. As high-speed data processing becomes the norm, the pairing of application-optimized FPGA and general purpose Microprocessors should become common in the data center and beyond.

Stay tuned from more news this week at the Xilinx Developer Forum!

Source: Arm

Ampere Starts Shipping ARM-Based 16 and 32-Core eMAG Processors for Data Center

Subject: General Tech | September 29, 2018 - 10:48 AM |
Tagged: Ampere, arm, armv8-a, datacenter, ddr4

Ampere recently announced the availability of its first ARM-based server processor dubbed eMAG. The new chips use 16 or 32 custom CPU cores built upon the X-Gene 3 (once pioneered by Applied Micro) compatible with the 64-bit ARMv8-A instruction set. Ampere, in partnership with Lenovo (and several smaller unspecified ODMs), has started shipping eMAG to its customers and partners. Current eMAG processors are based on TSMC 16nm FinFET+ and Ampere plans to move future eMAG processors to TSMC’s 7nm node while adding support for multi-socket servers as soon as next year.

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Ampere’s eMAG processors are designed for the datacenter with big data computing workloads in mind that benefit from large amounts of memory and cores including big data analytics, web serving, and in-memory databases. The new ARM server CPU entrant is designed to compete with the likes of Intel’s Xeon and AMD’s EPYC X86-64 processors as well as other ARM-based offerings from Cavium and Qualcomm. Early reports suggest that eMAG is no slouch in performance, but where it really excels is in price to performance, performance per core per dollar, and total cost of ownership metrics.

Today’s eMAG processors feature either 16 or 32 custom ARM cores clocked at 3.0 GHz base and up to 3.3 GHz turbo with 32KB I-cache, 32KB D-cache (L1) per core, 256KB L2 cache which is shared between two paired cores, and a global shared 32MB L3 cache. There are eight DDR4 memory controllers (up to 1TB DDR4-2667 using 16 DIMMs for up to 170.7 GB/s memory bandwidth) as well as 42 lanes of PCI-E 3.0 I/O. The CPU cores, cache, and controllers are connected using a switch that is part of a coherent fabric. Additional I/O support includes four SATA 3 and two USB 2.0 along with 10GbE. The eMAG processors have a 125W TDP.

Perhaps most interesting is the pricing which Ampere has set at a rather aggressive $550 for the 16-core chip and $850 for the 32-core processor. The Ampere chips are interesting especially following Qualcomm’s seeming loss of interest in this space as it dialed back its Centriq efforts earlier this year. With a new ARM entrant that reduces the datacenter barrier to entry for workloads that need lots of acceptable performance cores paired with lots of memory and AMD’s renewed datacenter push on all fronts, Intel is going to have its work cut out for it when it comes to maintaining its datacenter dominance. At the very least it may shake up server CPU pricing. Further, perhaps beyond its intended use, these ARM-based offerings may also introduce some new server platforms that are accessible to enthusiast virtual lab-ers and small HPC developers (small shops, universities, etc) that can use lower cost systems like these for testing and research into developing highly parallelized code that will eventually be run on higher end servers in the “hyperscale” data center.

I am curious to see if the eMAG will live up to its performance claims and expectations of competing with the big players in this space. According to ExtremeTech, Ampere claims the 32-core eMAG is able to match the Intel Xeon Gold 6130 (16 core / 32 thread, 2.1-3.7 GHz, 22MB L3, and 125W TDP) in SPEC CINT2006 benchmarks. The company further claimed earlier this year that eMAG would offer up to 90% performance per dollar versus Xeon Silver and 40% higher performance per dollar compared to Xeon Gold processors from Intel.

What are your thoughts on eMAG and ARM in the server space?

Related Reading:

Source: Ampere