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Arm processors: Everything you need to know now

The ninth generation of the Arm processor architecture, its engineers say, could sustain distributed computing for the rest of this decade. Could the rise of Arm signal the end of central processing units as we know them?

www.zdnet.com, Mar. 30, 2021 – 

The most important thing you need to understand about the role Arm processor architecture plays in any computing or communications market -- smartphones, personal computers, servers, or otherwise -- is this: Arm Holdings, Ltd., which is based in Cambridge, UK, designs the components of processors for others to build. Arm owns these designs, along with the architecture of their instruction sets, such as 64-bit ARM64. Its business model is to license the intellectual property (IP) for these components and the instruction set to other companies, enabling them to build systems around them that incorporate their own designs as well as Arm's. For its customers who build systems around these chips, Arm has done the hard part for them.

Arm Holdings, Ltd. does not manufacture its own chips. It has no fabrication facilities of its own. Instead, it licenses these rights to other companies, which Arm Holdings calls "partners." They utilize Arm's architectural model as a kind of template, building systems that use Arm cores as their central processors.

These Arm partners are given the opportunity to design, and possibly manufacture, their systems around these processors, or else outsource their production to others, but in any event sell implementations of these designs in commercial markets. Many Samsung and Apple smartphones and tablets, and essentially all devices produced by Qualcomm, utilize some Arm intellectual property. A new wave of servers produced with Arm-based systems-on-a-chip (SoC) has already made headway in competing against x86, especially with low-power or special-use models. Each device incorporating an Arm processor tends to be its own, unique system, like the multi-part Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 mobile processor depicted above.

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