Yesterday, we reported that AMD's ARM-compatible processors will include pre-fab 64-bit ARM cores, not compatible cores designed by AMD itself. Now, we have some idea of exactly what cores AMD is going to use.
ARM has announced a new family of processor core IP, the Cortex-A50 series, which is based on the 64-bit ARMv8 architecture. ARM says the first chips based on the A50 series will ship in 2014. Guess who's in the list of "announced licensees" for the new cores? That's right, AMD. (Other licensees include Broadcom, Calxeda, HiSilicon, Samsung, and STMicro.)
The Cortex-A50 series will initially be made up of two models, the Cortex-A57 and Cortex-A53. Here's how ARM describes them:
The Cortex-A57 is ARM’s most advanced high-performance applications processor, while the Cortex-A53 is the most power-efficient ARM application processor. The Cortex-A53 is also the world’s smallest 64-bit processor. They can operate independently or be combined into an ARM big.LITTLE™ processor configuration, combining high performance with power efficiency. Both are supported by the ARM CoreLink™ 400 and new CoreLink 500 series system IP fabric solutions.
ARM partners can scale SoC platforms from single- and multi-core big.LITTLE mobile solutions to massively parallel enterprise solutions for optimal flexibility and energy-efficiency. The Cortex-A57 and Cortex-A53 processors will target multi-GHz performance on advanced CMOS and FinFET processes technologies, which is supported by early availability of ARM Artisan® Physical IP and ARM POP™ IP for core-hardening acceleration.
Here are some simplified architectural diagrams showing the two offerings. Not pictured: ARM's new terabit CoreLink CCN-504 interconnect, which will be supported by both designs.
According to ARM, the Cortex-A57 will deliver the "highest single-thread performance," and systems featuring it will have performance "comparable to a legacy PC." Also, as the company notes in the quotation above, the Cortex-A53 and Cortex-A57 will both support both CMOS and FinFET fab processes. (FinFET is shorthand for three-dimensional transistors.)
GlobalFoundries, which produces AMD's processors, partnered with ARM to promote the migration to FinFET devices this summer. A month later, GloFo announced that its 14-nm FinFET process will be ready in 2013. Perhaps the first processors based on the Cortex-A50 series will use that process.