My favorite paper from the ISSCC processor session describes an adaptive clocking technique implemented in AMD’s 28nm Steamroller core that compensates for power supply noise. Initial results show a 10-20% decrease in power consumption from reducing the voltage, with no loss in performance. This elegant technique is likely to be adopted across AMD’s entire product line including GPUs, x86 CPUs, ARM-based CPUs, and other critical blocks in highly integrated SoCs.
The server market is at a potential inflection point, with a new breed of ARM-based microserver vendors challenging the status quo, particularly for cloud computing. We survey 20 modern processors to understand the options for alternative architectures. To achieve disruptive performance, microserver vendors must deeply specialize in particular workloads. However, there is a trade-off between differentiation and market breadth. As the handful of microserver startups are culled to 1-2 viable vendors, only the companies which deliver compelling advantages to significant markets will survive.
The new ARMv8 architecture is classically British; a clean and elegant 64-bit instruction set, with compatibility for 32-bit software. The 64-bit mode eliminates many complicated and awkward features and will foster a larger and more diverse ARM ecosystem with new licensees and applications.
With all the recent changes, AMD seems like a ship adrift at sea with no clear strategy or vision. We look at AMD and where they are likely to head in the coming years for tablets and phones and explain why they will stick with x86, rather than embrace ARM as some have suggested.
Nvidia’s Kal-El sports a novel 5th ‘companion’ core to lower idle power. We look at the trade-offs and benefits to this approach and explain why it will be a strong tablet SoC, but only an incremental gain for smartphones.
Rumors aside, Apple will not switch their laptops to ARM any time soon. Despite Apple’s previous migrations, there are too many technical and business challenges and too few benefits. Moreover, Apple’s chip designers are better suited to enhancing the iPhone and iPad to fend off commodity Android systems. We look at the reasons Apple will stay with x86 notebooks for now, and how they might consider using ARM in the future.