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ARM pitches 64-bit ARMv8 architecture at server vendors

Bursts through the 4GB barrier
Fri Oct 28 2011, 09:31

CHIP DESIGNER ARM has revealed details of the ARMv8 architecture, cementing the view that it is readying to enter the server chip market.

ARM's architecture is widely used in chips found in smartphones, televisions, controller boards and cars, however the current generation ARMv7 architecture has one limitation when it comes to servers, it is a 32-bit architecture. ARMv8, which the firm talked about yesterday, has 64-bit and virtual addressing support, allowing the chip to address more than 4GB of RAM.

While ARM might have said the chips will be useful in the consumer market, the truth is that ARMv8 chips, none of which ARM has announced yet, are aimed at server vendors and specifically HP, if reports are to be believed. ARM also said that ARMv7 virtualisation, its DRM and electronic payment technology Trustzone and the Neon single instruction multiple data architecture are still supported.

ARM also revealed that some of its partners already have development tools such as compilers, and that support for open source operating systems, applications and third-party tools are in the pipeline. At the very least ARM will have to ensure that ARMv8 can run Linux and core daemons such as Apache HTTPD and Bind. Since those already work on 32-bit ARM processors, they shouldn't be too hard to compile and optimise for the ARMv8 architecture.

For ARM, a 64-bit architecture is absolutely vital if it wants to compete in the server market. Even if chips based on ARM's architecture are low power, the 4GB limitation of 32-bit addressing is something that many would find hard to swallow. As for smartphones and tablets getting ARMv8 chips, considering how few devices have 1GB of RAM it might be some time yet before 64-bit processors are needed. µ


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