Arm debuts CPU roadmap for the first time, sort of

Move reflects desire to develop in the open, says company not developing in the open

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Chip designer Arm for the first time in recent memory has presented a roadmap, sparsely detailed through it may be, covering future CPU plans for 5G always-on connected mobile and laptop devices.

"This, I think, is the first time, certainly that I have been involved, in declaring a forward-looking roadmap in public," said Ian Smythe, senior director of marketing programs at Arm, during a media briefing.

There was a previous Arm 2017 roadmap, but let's ignore that for the moment. It wasn't particularly forward looking. And in 2014, Arm and TSMC talked about a roadmap.

This latest declaration of intent, as the company puts it, is "the first ever public forward-looking CPU IP roadmap." It brings with it compute performance projections and the promise of subsequent roadmaps too.

Smyth said part of the reason for revealing a roadmap is "our drive to be to developing in the open" and part of it is "to continue to show how ARM is driving leadership in compute in the cloud space."

In May, Arm unveiled its Cortex-A76 chip, which is expected to be available for manufacturing later this year and to appear in devices, in both 10nm and 7nm, no later than Q2 2019.

Tests conducted by Arm suggest the projected 3GHz Cortex-A76 will perform on par to an Intel 3.5GHz (Turbo mode) Core i5-7300u, while exhibiting a third the power consumption – less than 5W of power compared to 15W. The test were conducted using Ubuntu 18.04 in dual boot configuration, running SPEC2006INT and GCC 7 on a 7nm Cortex-A76 using 4MB L3, with 100ns LD-use DDR latency.

The A76's successor bears the code name "Deimos." Offered primarily via 7nm processes, it is expected to be available to Arm partners in 2019. The 2020 chip design, using in both 7nm and 5nm processes, is called "Hercules."

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"If you look where we've moved from Cortex-A73 (in 2016) to where Hercules will deliver on 5nm in 2020, the teams have delivered almost two and a half times gains in performance in a four year window," said Smythe. "I think that's quite exceptional."

The year 2020, incidentally, is when Apple is said to be planning to replace Intel chips in its Mac computers with its own Arm-based silicon. That's also when 5G networking technology, which aims to top out at 20 Gbit/s, is expected to be generally available, though some 5G devices and the carrier networks that support them should show up in 2019.

"It's clear that we're on a transformative path," said Smythe. "It's a compute journey that is changing the way compute is able to be delivered in large screen form-factor devices." ®


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