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!

AMD Changes Compute Landscape as the First to Bridge Both x86 and ARM Processors for the Data Center
─ Company to Complement x86-based Offerings with New Processors Based on ARM 64-bit Technology, Starting with Server Market ─

      SUNNYVALE, Calif. — Oct. 29, 2012 — In a bold strategic move, AMD (NYSE: AMD) announced that it will design 64-bit ARM® technology-based processors in addition to its x86 processors for multiple markets, starting with cloud and data center servers. AMD’s first ARM technology-based processor will be a highly-integrated, 64-bit multicore System-on-a-Chip (SoC) optimized for the dense, energy-efficient servers that now dominate the largest data centers and power the modern computing experience. The first ARM technology-based AMD Opteron™ processor is targeted for production in 2014 and will integrate the AMD SeaMicro Freedom™ supercompute fabric, the industry’s premier high-performance fabric.                                                                  

      AMD’s new design initiative addresses the growing demand to deliver better performance-per-watt for dense cloud computing solutions. Just as AMD introduced the industry’s first mainstream 64-bit x86 server solution with the AMD Opteron processor in 2003, AMD will be the only processor provider bridging the x86 and 64-bit ARM ecosystems to enable new levels of flexibility and drive optimal performance and power-efficiency for a range of enterprise workloads.

      “AMD led the data center transition to mainstream 64-bit computing with AMD64, and with our ambidextrous strategy we will again lead the next major industry inflection point by driving the widespread adoption of energy-efficient 64-bit server processors based on both the x86 and ARM architectures,” said Rory Read, president and chief executive officer, AMD. “Through our collaboration with ARM, we are building on AMD’s rich IP portfolio, including our deep 64-bit processor knowledge and industry-leading AMD SeaMicro Freedom supercompute fabric, to offer the most flexible and complete processing solutions for the modern data center.”

      “The industry needs to continuously innovate across markets to meet customers’ ever-increasing demands, and ARM and our partners are enabling increasingly energy-efficient computing solutions to address these needs,” said Warren East, chief executive officer, ARM. “By collaborating with ARM, AMD is able to leverage its extraordinary portfolio of IP, including its AMD Freedom supercompute fabric, with ARM 64-bit processor cores to build solutions that deliver on this demand and transform the industry.”

      The explosion of the data center has brought with it an opportunity to optimize compute with vastly different solutions. AMD is providing a compute ecosystem filled with choice, offering solutions based on AMD Opteron x86 CPUs, new server-class Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) that leverage Heterogeneous Systems Architecture (HSA), and new 64-bit ARM-based solutions.

      This strategic partnership with ARM represents the next phase of AMD’s strategy to drive ambidextrous solutions in emerging mega data center solutions. In March, AMD announced the acquisition of SeaMicro, the leader in high-density, energy-efficient servers. With today’s announcement, AMD will integrate the AMD SeaMicro Freedom fabric across its leadership AMD Opteron-, ARM- and x86-based processors that will enable hundreds, or even thousands of processor clusters to be linked together to provide the most energy-efficient solutions.

      “Over the past decade the computer industry has coalesced around two high-volume processor architectures – x86 for personal computers and servers, and ARM for mobile devices,” observed Nathan Brookwood, research fellow at Insight 64. “Over the next decade, the purveyors of these established architectures will each seek to extend their presence into market segments dominated by the other. The path on which AMD has now embarked will allow it to offer products based on both x86 and ARM architectures, a capability no other semiconductor manufacturer can likely match.”

      At an event hosted by AMD today in San Francisco, representatives from Amazon, Dell, Facebook and Red Hat participated in a panel discussion on opportunities created by ARM server solutions from AMD. A replay of the event can be found here as of 5 p.m. PDT, Oct. 29.

Supporting Resources

§  AMD bridges the x86 and ARM ecosystems for the data center announcement press resources

§  Follow AMD on Twitter at @AMD_Unprocessed

§  Follow the AMD and ARM announcement on Twitter at #AMDARM

§  Like AMD on Facebook.


About AMD

AMD (NYSE: AMD) is a semiconductor design innovator leading the next era of vivid digital experiences with its groundbreaking AMD Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) that power a wide range of computing devices. AMD’s server computing products are focused on driving industry-leading cloud computing and virtualization environments. AMD’s superior graphics technologies are found in a variety of solutions ranging from game consoles, PCs to supercomputers. For more information, visit

October 29, 2012 | 05:16 PM - Posted by brisa117

Does this come as a huge surprise to anyone? I feel like there's been the AMD-ARM rumor for several years now. But hey, you've gotta do something, and maybe they'll do it right. Sometimes you need a fresh start when you've been looking at the same ISA... I mean problem for so long.

Anyways, looking forward to hearing more when it comes in.

October 29, 2012 | 05:25 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

No, not really surprising but it is still a major move from the second largest x86 vendor.

October 29, 2012 | 05:52 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

hmmmm.... I don't know if this is a good thing for AMD or not. Obviously they need a winning product. Have they developed the full software infrastructure (compilers, linux ports, etc) that would make this a compelling product? If so how can the investment ever pay off?

I think that ARMs potential is over hyped. Its performance per watt isn't impressive compared to Intel's chips. And its floating point performance is sub par.

ARM's biggest benefit is that its a clean break from x86, But in server space its biggest weakness is its lack of legacy.

October 29, 2012 | 07:53 PM - Posted by Thedarklord

I am not surprised by this, this is actually a very smart move for AMD.

The more market diversity they have the better. The ARM space has huge potential, even more so since 64 Bit ARM is just now in its infancy.

Same reason NVIDIA also got into ARM and even more so with "project denver" to bring ARM to the high end server / desktop market.

I hope that we can see more competition in X86 space, and as far as ARM I hope we can see more higher performing units as well as wider OS support.

Win8 being a big one, even though im not a huge fan of Win8 for X86, for ARM I am very excited. It would cool to think of the possibilities of having more choices for your CPU... think an NVIDIA/AMD/Ect ARM CPU that can perform as fast as or better than X86 equivilent.

October 29, 2012 | 10:19 PM - Posted by brisa117

That would be really great. It's been a pretty small market with x86 for years now. As long as I've been building PCs there has only been Intel and AMD.

And since competition is the best for consumers, I'm all for it. Even if it means that its not more x86 competitors, but rather ARM CPUs coming to directly compete with x86. This will push Intel - which is always good, seeing as they're not really being pushed by anyone right now - and would give the consumer more choice.

I mean look at other technology markets. There are a million and a half computer case manufacturers who are all free to do whatever they want with their cases. This leads to last year's $200 case features being in this year's $89 cases. And yet there is constant innovation and imagination put into the new $200 cases for this year. Imagine if that were true with CPUs.

Unfortunately, what happens more often than not is what we see going on with the motherboard manufacturers. As the CPU manufacturers incorporate more and more features onto the actual chips, there is less and less to differentiate one motherboard from another until the chip makers have to go for bottom price mark or high end "nothing-components" (like heatpipes that look like guns and "revolutionary" power control). These things are nice, but it would be nicer to see some killer product features out there that you can only get on certain boards.

And again you see it with DRAM manufacturers. Windows has traditionally increased their RAM demands, but for the last THREE upgrades, it has been a minimal upgrade (if any). I would dare say it would be hard to install even one stick of DDR3 ram in a desktop that wouldn't, by itself, meet the minimum requirements for Windows 8. And so the manufacturers are looking for ways to bail out of the market at their first chance. I mean I was looking at some G.Skill ram the other say and they had 4 different SKUs, each branded by a different name, all the capacities, voltages, timings, and clock speeds were the exact same... you would just be picking the color of heatsink you liked...

Anyways, all I'm trying to say is that diversity makes things interesting, and it's refreshing to see the market going that way in stead of the standard consolidation it normally trends towards.

October 30, 2012 | 02:51 AM - Posted by Operandi

Diversity is never bad but I question weather this is really a good thing. ARM never was and likely never will be a "performance" architecture, its only merits are power consumption and cost. And even then its not clear how long ARM will even hold that advantage. For the server room AMD might be better off refining and pushing their Jaguar and other x86 derivatives, ARM might be a dead end within a few years.

October 30, 2012 | 05:58 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

An ARM based APU with AMD graphics and HSA will find a place in the market of low power devices with great graphics. Intel might be compared to a builder of muscle car engines in a post oil crisis world! Yes Intel x86 beats AMD x86 but AMD graphics still beats Intel graphics! I would like to see an ARM core on a 22 nm finfet transistor process benchmarked against the atom core, on the same process, before I write off ARM, much of Intel Atom's power savings is dew to advanced power gating on the chip. If AMD could take the ARM IP and improve the power gating, while its chip fabrication partners improve their processes, ARM's reduced transistor count should beat x86 in power usage, at full load, for processors of equal transistor fabrication size and design.

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