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Samsung also is eyeing Cortex-M processors for its Smart TVs and appliances

Two of the smartphone market's biggest powers met this week to discuss processors.  UK-based ARM Holdings plc (LON:ARM), an architecture company whose titular instruction set is found in 95 percent of smartphones sold today, traveled to South Korea, the home turf of Android phonemaker South Korea's Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930).  Samsung accounted for over 30 percent of global smartphone shipments in Q3 -- nearly three times more than any other OEM.
 
Samsung and ARM met to discuss the adoption of ARM's new ARMv8 64-bit instruction set, which Samsung's upcoming Exynos 6 processors for next year's Galaxy S5 is expected to use.  Antonio Viana, ARM’s executive vice president of commercial and global development, met with senior Samsung executives to talk about the roadmap to 64-bit and beyond.
 
An unnamed senior manager at ARM with knowledge of the meeting suggested 128-bit chips might also have been discussed.  While PC CPUs have yet to hit 128-bit, The Korea Herald quotes the senior ARM executive as saying there was a "possibility" that ARM would release a 128-bit instruction set in the next two years and push for smartphone/tablet adoption.  But the Korean publication says the ARM official said these plans were only a "possibility" and not a definite plan at present.
 
Exynos
Samsung wants to make sure that its Exynos chips for next year's Galaxy S5 have access to ARM's best instruction set -- the 64-bit ARMv8 instruction set.

The official is quoted as suggesting that smartphones soon may have more than 4 GB of memory and need 64-bit processors to address their memory.  The source stated, "As technology moves from, for example, shifting to face recognition on smartphones from the fingerprint scanner to unlock an iPhone, it requires more powerful memory capacity."
 
It also appears that ARM is incentivizing the transition to 64-bit ARM chips in the mobile market, in part, to fuel its server ambitions, as well as its PC push.  
 
While 64-bit chips offer some gains in graphics and I/O addition to the aforementioned memory addressing gains, processing is generally otherwise unaffected.  However, ARM is purposefully tilting the playing field in 64-bit's flavor by designing its new instruction sets -- which allow more registers -- to only work for 64-bit chips.  32-bit chips will be forced to use the older, less optimized ARMv7.  In other words, ARM is telling mobile chipmakers to make the switch or settle with last generation instruction sets.
 
This push will allow ARM to foster an ecosystem of compatible applications, which may help the chip designer to push into the PC and server markets, two key areas of desired growth.

Cortex M
Samsung may look to use the Cortex M chips in new appliances.

Samsung and ARM also reportedly discussed the Cortex-M processor, a low power core design which Samsung may look to use in its appliances and Smart TVs.

Source: The Korea Herald



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RE: 128-bit?
By JasonMick (blog) on 11/21/2013 2:28:43 PM , Rating: 3
There might be some advantages in terms of speed for addressing memory buses that are wider than 64-bit (i.e. graphical memory buses), or in addressing sensors data links (i.e. 4K cameras).

Wikipedia points out that this is also a common key size for symmetric ciphers in cryptography and the address side in IPv6. Hence 128-bit could speed up networking and cryptography (cryptography is one of the major areas of better performance with the A7 processor, according to AnandTech).

There probably other reasons as well...

I'm sure there's a technical reason why ARM thinks this is practical. A company that dominates its market isn't exactly likely to be technically ignorant.


RE: 128-bit?
By DanNeely on 11/21/2013 2:38:47 PM , Rating: 2
By those definitions of bittedness, PC CPUs with standard dual channel memory buses are 128 bit chips, as are CPUs with SSE support. AVX instructions are up to 256 bits wide, and Intel has proposed an even wider 512 bit version with an ETA in their 2015 successor to the Xeon Phi coprocessor card.


RE: 128-bit?
By kingmotley on 11/21/2013 4:23:07 PM , Rating: 3
First read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/64-bit_computing

As a recap, there are 3 parts of a modern CPU: General registers, address pointers, and data bus. In actuality, there is a few more, including external address bus. A 128-bit CPU typically refers to the first one of those, using 128-bit general registers. It would not be inconceivable, and actually highly likely that the external address bus of any 128-bit ARM would still remain 64-bit (or even less... perhaps even 36 or 40-bit), and yet it could have a significant on its speed for many different types of operations, including networking, video processing, and cryptography.


RE: 128-bit?
By vignyan on 11/22/2013 3:46:08 AM , Rating: 2
I think NEON extensions for ARM already have 128-bit data registers. It might be that new ISA extensions might introduce better instructions to use these registers?


RE: 128-bit?
By jamescox on 11/22/2013 4:12:40 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
As a recap, there are 3 parts of a modern CPU: General registers, address pointers, and data bus. In actuality, there is a few more, including external address bus. A 128-bit CPU typically refers to the first one of those, using 128-bit general registers. It would not be inconceivable, and actually highly likely that the external address bus of any 128-bit ARM would still remain 64-bit (or even less... perhaps even 36 or 40-bit), and yet it could have a significant on its speed for many different types of operations, including networking, video processing, and cryptography.


I don't know how much point there is to writing this. Even 64-bit is mostly marketing BS at the moment for smart phones, although 4GB devices will arrive relatively soon. Talking about a 128-bit processor is ridiculous and indicates that whoever was taking about it has no clue, or was massively misunderstood.

The bittness of a processor usually refers to the size of a pointer used to reference memory, not the size of the registers. 32-bits can be used to access 4 GB of memory. Going to full 64-bit pointers allows addressing up to 16 exabytes. An exabyte is 1024 times bigger than a petabyte. A petabyte is 1024 times larger than terabyte, which is more familiar since we have hard-drives this large (they are not byte addressable though like system memory is).

Most high end 64-bit (virtual address space) server processors do not even support using a 64-bit physical address space; they only support maybe 40-bits (36-bits in early models) of physical memory (1024 GB or 1 TB). Some newer chips have this up to 48-bit support (256 TB) though. This is still a huge amount of system memory; most high-end systems are only going to have something like 256 GB, which is 3 orders of magnitude less than the max 256 TB. We will not run out of 64-bit address space for a very long time, so there is no need for 128-bit pointers, it is ridiculous.

Every time you increase the pointer size, it degrades performance. Most 32 -> 64bit switches have included other enhancements with the switch to 64-bit to hide this. The performance degradation is due to the double size pointers using up more memory and cache space. Many data structures store pointers to other objects; Going 64-bit increases storage needed significantly over 32-bit. Going 64-bit requires higher bandwidth and larger caches also. This is why some applications are still 32-bit even on 64-bit capable systems. As far as I know, Chrome is 32-bit since it uses a separate renderer process for each tab. Memory of a single tab will not exceed 2 GB.

There are a few applications which make use of large integers which get a significant boost when switching to 64-bit native operations. This doesn't have to be connected to whether the processor is 64-bit or not though. Intel introduced SSE in 1999; it uses 128-bit registers on a 32-bit Pentium3. An SSE register is 128-bits, and it can be viewed as many different sized values (16x1B, 8X2B, 4x4B, 2x8B : Byte = 8 bits). The AVX extension extends the SSE registers up to 512-bits. If ARM does not have any legacy extensions, then it may be reasonable to extend the general purpose registers to 128-bit. There is no reason to change the size of a pointer though. Apple's 64-bit extension changes the size of a pointer and the size of the general registers to 64-bit also.


RE: 128-bit?
By Nortel on 11/21/13, Rating: -1
RE: 128-bit?
By Argon18 on 11/22/13, Rating: -1
RE: 128-bit?
By inighthawki on 11/22/2013 4:02:05 PM , Rating: 2
No, it's more likely because it's not true... The closest thing to a 128 bit CPU at that point was IBM's model 85 which was able to do a handful of 128 bit extended floating point operations and storing the result across multiple registers. Hardly what could be called a '128 bit processor.'


RE: 128-bit?
By icanhascpu on 11/21/2013 10:50:58 PM , Rating: 2
*Scoff*

You do not need 128bit in anything youd do with an ARM cpu.


RE: 128-bit?
By vignyan on 11/22/2013 3:41:35 AM , Rating: 2
You are mistaken!

Current CPUs access a lot more data per cycle than 64-bits. So your assumption of 128-bit ISA helping anything with memory speed/bandwidth is false. DDR width of 64-bits is a coincidence and nothing to do with 64-bit computing. Memory requests are usually in terms of 64 to 128 *byte* blocks.

Cryptographic applications can use the 128 or 256-bit SIMD registers if needed. They don't need 128-bit ISA.

Having said that, I am still intrigued why ARM/Samsung would even discuss about 128-bit ISA at this point. May be they mean something else by mentioning 128-bit machines. There are no OS/language discussions for this yet.


RE: 128-bit?
By Silver2k7 on 11/24/2013 7:42:24 AM , Rating: 2
Well there was some talk about a 128-bit Win8 or Win9... so perhaps there is some other uses for 128-bitness other than wast ammounts of RAM...


RE: 128-bit?
By Shadowself on 11/22/2013 1:18:05 PM , Rating: 2
There certainly are advantages beyond the addressable space for going to a true 64-bit processor as you point out.

But what is really a 64-bit processor? For that matter, what is a 32 bit processor? To see how confusing the naming can be you only need to look back at Motorola's 68000 series processors, back when processors were actually chip sets and not monolithic chips. The 68000 chipset was called a 32 bit processor, but in its first implementation it did 32 bit integer math internally, had a 16 bit data bus, had a 24 bit address buss and interfaced to a math co-processor chip that did 32 bit single precision, 64 bit double precision and 80 bit extended precision math. So was the 68000 chipset a 16 bit, a 24 bit, a 32 bit, a 64 bit or an 80 bit chipset?

People often like to focus on the address space -- hmmm... the original POWER chipset was considered a 32 bit chipset. However, IIRC it had a 48 bit address space. So was it a 32 bit chipset or a 48 bit chipset?

Right after Apple announced the "64 bit" A7 chip, Samsung said that early next year they would be shipping a chip with "64 bit features", but what "features" are those? Just as an extreme example, if it has a 16 bit data path, a 32 bit address space and does 64 bit floating point can they say it has "64 bit features"?

Go back to the first desktop chips with vector processing capabilities. Most of those had either 128 or 256 bit vectors, but they were still called either 32 or 64 bit chips.

I wish the naming "conventions" were consistent, but unfortunately the naming of the "bitness" of chips has been run by marketing types since the late 70s and not hardware or software engineers.

The bottom line is that until the chips Samsung is discussing are taped out and the ground rules of that tape out are made public (they often are not) we have absolutely no idea what Samsung means by "64 bit" or "128 bit". Anyone who says otherwise is just blowing smoke. Until then it's 100% marketing hype.


RE: 128-bit?
By inighthawki on 11/22/2013 4:04:46 PM , Rating: 2
The bittedness of a CPU is commonly associated with the native word size of the processor, which is also typically the same size as the main registers.


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