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Summary:

ARM said its next generation architecture will offer cores capable of 64-bit computing. The boost from 32-bits to 64-bits will push ARM-based processors over the last big hurdle keeping the chip IP company outside the enterprise and corporate computing market, and pit it squarely against Intel.

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ARM on Thursday released details of its next generation architecture that will see its next cores capable of 64-bit computing. The boost from 32-bits to 64-bits will push ARM-based processors over the last big hurdle keeping the chip IP company outside the enterprise and corporate computing market, and pit it squarely against Intel.

ARM-based chips can be found inside cell phones, set-top-boxes and game consoles, but as power became more of concern in the data center, companies such as Calxeda, Nvidia and Marvell have tried to shoehorn ARM-based chips into servers. In fact, the Wall Street Journal  expects HP to announce a deal with Calxeda that will see the computing giant ship 32-bit ARM-based servers to its customers. But as Tilera and other companies building chips for the data center and cloud computing market know, 32-bits only gets you so far.

Most server buyers want computers that will run at 64-bits, which can handle the latest software the machines are running. And while ARM’s announcement today will mean that capability is on the way, it still won’t be seen inside actual servers until 2014. The transition to 64 bits was on ARM’s roadmap, so the update isn’t exactly a surprise, but it is good news for the ecosystem of companies trying to unseat Intel and AMD from the data center.

ARM said in a release, that its new ARMv8 architecture:

…consists of two main execution states, AArch64 and AArch32. The AArch64 execution state introduces a new instruction set, A64 for 64-bit processing. The AArch32 state supports the existing ARM instruction set. The key features of the current ARMv7 architecture, including TrustZone®, virtualization and NEON™ advanced SIMD, are maintained or extended in the ARMv8 architecture.

For a deeper dive on the topic, check out how ARM could change the economics of the server industry and how long we may have to wait before clouds adopt non-86-based chips.

  1. Cortex A9 isn’t very suited for servers, but Cortex A15 with its support for 1 TB of RAM should be a nice stop gap until the ARMv8 chips arrive in 2014, which will probably be made at 20nm.

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