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ARM CEO in no hurry to go 64-bit

by Pete Mason on 8 February 2011, 11:05

Tags: ARM

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There has been a fair bit of speculation that chip-designer ARM will take a giant step into Intel's home turf by pushing its processors into the server market. However, the company's is hindered by the fact that its highly specialised SoCs don't include some of the features needed for use data centres.

One of these is 64-bit addressing, but apparently the company has no plans to develop a 64-bit chip in the near future. However, ARM's CEO, Warren East, didn't see this as a problem when questioned on the issue during an earnings conference call last week.

"There are certainly server applications today...for which 64-bit or lack of 64-bit is not a barrier...a 32-bit processors perfectly adequate to address that in [typical] multi-core configurations and Blades with multiple multi-core chips on the Blade," he noted.

He added that the Cortex A15 architecture - which TI has just launched with its new OMAP 5 SoC - supports 40-bit addressing, which some servers rely on.

Of course, 64-bit addressing is certainly on the cards at some point. East continued, "it's logical to suppose that at some stage in the future, ARM will extend its architecture in that direction. And it would certainly be helpful as and when we have those sorts of products".

In the short-term, a lack of 64-bit capable processors would limit the usefulness of ARM designs in high-performance servers. However, a large number of low-power, low-speed processors are much better suited to cloud- and web-based servers anyway, where 32-bit tasks are likely to be a lot more common. However, with high-performance ARM processors coming soon courtesy of companies like NVIDIA, 64-bit addressing might soon become much more important.



HEXUS Forums :: 11 Comments

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I'd be happier if they were at least considering 64-bit. Presumably ARM 32-bit has the same memory limitations as x86 32-bit, and I'm pretty sure in a few years I'll be considering whether to get an ARM-based tablet/notebook running Windows 8, or an x86 one, and if the ARM one is limited to ~3GB RAM it's likely the x86 one will be getting my money. And it seems it takes a couple of years for even a completed design to make it into products, so it doesn't seem like they have that much time on their side..
If mobile phones ever need >4GB of RAM any time soon, then we'd need to seriously re-evaluate mobile/embedded development.
In a couple of generations it seems likely that ARM will be powerful enough for mainstream laptops. Combined with a desktop version of Windows that will run on ARM, and potentially superior pricing/battery compared to what x86 may be offering at that time, 4GB RAM on ARM may not be that far away.
Strictly speaking, ARM is already plenty powerful enough for laptops, and even most common desktop tasks. The problem is that software has become bloated beyond epic proportions. And I don't even hold distinction for Windows, or OS X. Linux has also been suffering from perpetual feature creep and abstraticitis.
Also there is a confusion about 64bit been required to address more memory.

Segmented memory models, who here actuallys codes pointer arthimatic or machine code for anything other than ****s and giggles now adays? So why not just segment?

I can merrily chug away calcing a 256bit int on my 8bit MCU if I wish, it is just a lot slower.

For browsing the web and such do we need this? No. For games and such its floating point which is a whole different ball game all together. This combined with the fact that the vast majority of ARM sales are no doubt going into systems that have maybe 32meg of RAM, serially addressed EEPROM and the like, I doubt they are really doing any work with 64bit values. Few people have need for 64bit integers, normally its floating points and these ARM sucks at anyway.

If we are seeing more people moving from Desktops to portable devices which just render web pages, flash, silverlight, java. Then for this entire market there is no need for 64bit arithmatic on integers at high performance. The business model of ARM licensing IP means that someone will produce a combination of it with some graphics chip for all the specific maths.

Also floating point is slow, the trick to speading it up is to make bits that run in parallel doing specific tasks, this increases the instruction set space and quickly you are no longer a RISC design, with all the costs and downsides ascoiciated.

For windows 8 I'm trying desperately to think of a frequently called API that even takes a floating point number for something other than graphics, I can't. I'm trying to think of something that requires a 64bit for something other than file addressing / its-the-pointer size. I can't.