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ARM debuts embedded architecture, new 64-bit processor

By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

November 10, 2015 — ARM Holdings today is introducing the ARMv8-M architecture for embedded devices and the ARM Cortex-A35 64-bit processor as the company opens the annual ARM TechCon conference and exposition in Santa Clara, Calif.

Advanced RISC Machines Ltd. was established 25 years ago this month as a joint venture among Acorn Computers, Apple Computer (now Apple), and VLSI Technology. The company changed its name to ARM Ltd. in 1998 and went public as ARM Holdings on the London Stock Exchange and NASDAQ.


ARM CEO Simon Segars

At this week’s ARM TechCon event, attendees will hear keynote addresses by CEO Simon Segars and Chief Technology Officer Mike Muller. There will be presentations by Google, Oracle, and Twentieth Century Fox on the main stage of the conference. ARM TechCon runs through Thursday, November 12, at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

The ARMv8-M architecture is intended to address “the growing billions of endpoint devices” in the Internet of Things, says Nandan Nayampally, vice president of marketing for ARM’s CPU Group. It encompasses providing the ARM TrustZone security technology for IoT devices, which will work in concert with TrustZone CryptoCell and AMBA 5 AHB5 to secure ultra-low-power systems.

Device integrity is the goal of the embedded architecture, according to Nayampally. “We need every component along the chain to be secure,” he says.

In addition to device integrity, ARM aims to provide lifecycle security and communication security, Nayampally adds.

“The baseline for all this is trusted hardware,” Nayampally says. “TrustZone has been very successful; it’s been around for a decade.”

ARMv8-M targets Cortex-M embedded processors, he notes. The new architecture aims at “microcontrollers up to the smartphone generation and to the enterprise,” Nayampally says.

For the benefit of embedded-device developers, “you have to be real-time,” Nayampally says. “You have to be really small. We cannot compromise on that.”

ARMv8-M will be supported by a number of third-party tool suppliers, including Mentor Graphics, Micrium, Green Hills Software, and Symantec.

The ARM Cortex-A35 processor has already been licensed to multiple customers and will be found in devices by the end of next year, says Ian Smythe, director of marketing programs for the CPU Group. “Each partner will announce on their own schedule,” he adds.

The 64-bit processor is “targeted at mobile,” Smythe says. Half of smartphones shipped this year will include chips with the ARMv8-A architecture, he notes. ARM and Gartner are predicting 1 billion entry-level smartphones will ship in 2020, as the entry-level smartphone market enjoys a compound annual growth rate of 8 percent.

The Cortex-A35 consumes 10% less power than the Cortex-A7, according to Smythe, and offers performance improvements of 6 percent to 40 percent in various functions.

Compared with the Cortex-A53 processor, the Cortex-A35 has a 25 percent smaller core, 32 percent lower power consumption, and 25 percent greater efficiency, Smythe says. ARM touts the Cortex-A35 as an ultra-high-efficiency processor, suitable to succeed the Cortex-A5 and Cortex-A7 in entry-level smartphones.

“The ARM Cortex-A35 processor brings efficient, secure 64-bit processing to the next billion smartphones,” Smythe concludes.

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