ARM unveils chip designs for future smartphones, servers

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 30, 2012 6:40 PM
ARM unveils chip designs for future smartphones, servers

By Paul Sandle and Noel Randewich

LONDON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - British chip designer ARM on Tuesday launched processors to power a new generation of smartphones and also offer low-energy solutions for servers, increasing its incursion into a market dominated by Intel.

The Cambridge-based company, whose technology is in Apple's iPhone 5 and Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S3, said its latest blueprints would deliver three times today's processing power using the same amount of energy.

The new chips use 64-bit architecture, an upgrade from current 32-bit designs that will give them increased processing clout suitable for servers while retaining their energy efficiency, the company said.

Chips made using technology licensed from ARM are used across the smartphone and tablet industry. The company is now promoting an emerging trend toward building data centers with many small, low-energy chips instead of a few high-performance ones.

The microserver industry is in its infancy, with Hewlett-Packard, Dell and other vendors showing keen interest.

PC chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices said on Monday it would use ARM's technology to make microserver chips available starting in 2014.

ARM Chief Executive Warren East told reporters at an event in San Francisco that ARM-based servers may account for a fifth of data centers by 2020.

He said interest in microservers is spreading beyond cutting-edge Internet companies like Facebook and Google to traditionally conservative customers, like banks' chief information officers.

"Getting to the CIOs of banks is quite a step but we're already seeing these types of people totally plugged into the notion of ARM-based servers, and looking at not so much whether, but how and when," East said.

Introducing 64-bit technology that lets processors interact more efficiently with memory chips, a feature already offered by Intel, is a key step toward making ARM chips more attractive for data centers.

East said Austin, Texas-startup Calxeda has demonstrated that ARM technology can reduce power consumption by over three quarters in servers.

Unlike in the PC industry, which Intel dominated for decades, manufacturers in the smartphone industry can buy their processors from any number of chip designers.

East said data-center equipment manufacturers will also benefit from more options as ARM-based chip designers launch competing chips into the server market, long an Intel stronghold.

Licensees of ARM's new 64-bit Cortex A-50 series include AMD, Broadcom, Calxeda, HiSilicon, Samsung and STMicroelectronics, the company said, and the first chips are expected to ship in 2014.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle in London and Noel Randewich in San Francisco; Editing by Louise Heavens and James Dalgleish)