Aloof as articles based on ARM’s abundant advancing Cortex A9 are assuredly assertive to hit the market, the aggregation has appear yet another, alike higher-end amount design: the A15. Codenamed “Eagle,” the A15 architectonics is evidently aimed at netbooks and tablets, but a attending at the blueprint area leaves no agnosticism that ARM is actually gunning for the server bazaar that Intel and AMD currently dominate. Indeed, alike activity by what little ARM has appear about the A15, it’s actual adamantine to brainstorm this affair in a smartphone back it launches at 32nm in 2012 or 2013. This is a laptop and server part, and ARM will use it to booty the action to x86.
The all-embracing position of the A15 in ARM’s calendar is as the aing analytic footfall up the ladder from the A9, so that in adjustment of amount size, complexity, performance, features, capability, and ability consumption, the Cortex ancestors goes by the numbers: A8 at the bottom, afresh A9, afresh A15 at the top. The A8 is an in-order allotment with a actual simple architectonics that’s commensurable to Intel’s Atom in some key anatomical respects, but is abundant lower-power and added able than the latter. The Cortex A9 is an out-of-order allotment that brings the ARM band into Atom’s achievement territory, and additionally afterpiece to Atom in ability draw (though the A9 is allegedly still abundant added able than Atom).
The A15 takes things to the aing akin by bond the out-of-order attributes of the A9 with the all-embracing affection account (virtualization support, double-precision amphibian point, ECC cache) that characterizes the Atom line, and that costs Atom in agreement of power. In this respect, the A15 looks somewhat like AMD’s afresh apparent Bobcat core, to the point that I would be actual analytical to see a allegory of the transistor counts of the two cores.
ARM has yet to absolution a absolute block diagram of A15, so there are abounding acute aspects of the architecture that are actual unclear. Specifically, the adequacy and robustness of the A15’s annex anticipation hardware, the abyss of its pipeline, and the admeasurement and agreement of its apprenticeship window will all accept a absolute appulse on both raw achievement and the all-important performance/watt metric. If ARM has beefed up the admeasurement of the apprenticeship window and/or added the design’s annex anticipation assets (possibly to abate the furnishings of a best pipeline), afresh that will be achievement absolute but ability negative.
The actuality that A15 is such a cogent footfall up the performance/complexity/power ladder from A9 makes it bright that A15 isn’t absolutely a almsman to A9, any added than A9 is a almsman to A8. Rather, the three designs will coexist in ARM’s calendar for abounding years, enabling the Cortex ancestors to amount a ambit of power/performance/feature points. So the aberration amid the A8, A9, and A15 parts, and, say, Bobcat and Bulldozer, is that ARM, actuality a abundant abate aggregation than AMD with actual bound assets and a altered actual user base, has trickled the three designs out boring over the advance of a few years, vs. putting them out them all at once.
The comfortable clip of ARM’s roadmap will appear as a abruptness to Intel and AMD watchers, but as with all anchored designs, ARM architectures historically accept actual continued lifecycles. (This is accurate of MIPS, as well.) Older ARM cores that aren’t allotment of the Cortex ancestors are still in assembly in a ambit of devices, from affection phones to appliances—the aforementioned will be accurate of the Cortex ancestors in a decade.
Let’s run bottomward some of the important appropriate appearance of A15:
Back you add the aloft to some of the added features, like double-precision floating-point, agent extensions, accumulation snooping, and so on, it’s actual bright that this is at the actual atomic a laptop part—not phones, or netbooks, but laptops. And not aloof laptops, but servers. And afresh again not aloof servers, but high-density multisocket servers.
So with the A15, ARM assuredly makes the jump all the way into niches currently active by Intel and AMD. With account to netbooks—or “smartbooks” as they’re alleged back they accept an ARM allotment in them—the band amid a netbook and a laptop isn’t cool bright anymore. But wherever the band is, annihilation based on A15 will be on the laptop ancillary of it. And in the datacenter, the allotment will additionally strengthen ARM’s beginning attendance in the beginning bazaar for high-density, low-power billow servers. Over the aing two years, the A9 will authorize ARM’s attendance in this new niche, so that back the A15 drops the aggregation will (ideally) use it to body on its absolute presence.
All told, the A15 looks like a able accompaniment to the A9 and A8, but it’s too aboriginal to say abundant added than that. The allotment is able-bodied over a year from the market, if not two or three. And back it debuts at 32nm Intel will be at 22nm, and with no cogent what affectionate of almsman to today’s Atom. AMD will still be alive with the basal Bobcat technology, and will apparently be at 32nm. This agency that all we can do is accomplish ambiguous guesses as we delay for added A15 capacity to crawl out. But admitting the absence of detail about A15’s absolute prospects, one affair is for certain: the processor arena aloof got a lot added interesting.
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