30 billion ARM-based chips have shipped over the last 20 years, but ARM isn't stopping there. ARM is looking beyond cell phones and mobile devices and pursuing new opportunities in the server, home entertainment, and automotive marketplaces, according to Tom Lantzsch (right), executive vice president of corporate development at ARM. And geographically, ARM is paying renewed attention to the developing world.
Lantzsch gave a keynote speech titled "Your World at Your Fingertips" at CDNLive! Silicon Valley (the Cadence user conference) March 13, 2012. His talk followed keynote speeches by Lip-Bu Tan, Cadence president and CEO (reported here) and Rick Cassidy, president of TSMC North America (reported here). All speakers emphasized the need for close collaboration in the semiconductor ecosystem, and Lantzsch opened his talk by stating that "collaboration and partnership is probably the most critical element for our success."
Lantzsch said he would "talk more at the systems level about changes we have seen in the industry, and how technology is literally coming to your fingertips." He revealed that he has 21 devices with a browser and IP address in his own house. He then asked audience members how many had smartphones with them that day - nearly all did. If you left your wallet or smartphone at home, he asked, which would you return first to get? The response was about 50-50.
"The point is, these devices are getting incredibly personal," Lantzsch noted. And that's one reason that ARM is paying increasing attention to security. With apps that allow mobile devices to start your car, turn your house lights on or off, or open or close your garage door, the need for security "will drive some very interesting technology, even at the silicon level," he said.
Developing Opportunities in the Developing World
Lantzsch said that the impact of mobile technology will be especially profound in developing countries. He noted that 80% of all cell phones are in developing countries, with some 4 billion units. "As those devices become smart there will be profound implications on how these people live, work and are educated," he said. And it's one reason ARM processors are moving into the server market - "we think servers will be different from those that exist today, and certainly developing countries are going to have certain challenges."
At the high end, Lantzsch noted, quad-core Cortex-A9 based devices will soon be appearing in stores. At the other extreme, ARM is looking at how to bring $100 smartphones to developing countries. "Products like our A5 processor, which can go into extremely low cost Android cell phones, will be very important to our business as we go forward," he said.
Closer to home, ARM is looking at new opportunities in the home entertainment market, leveraging the large software ecosystem that ARM established for the cell phone market. "As TVs became digitized, and applications became transparent, a lot of software was reused and this enabled our transition to this space," Lantzsch said. He also said that automotive electronics has become a "big area for innovation" and noted that ARM is working on virtualization technology that will make it possible to have both a secure and unsecure operating system in the same car. That way you don't rely on the same OS to control a radio and wake up a sleeping driver.
The market area that Lantzsch talked about most, however, was servers. He noted that every 600 cell phones and every 122 iPads require a server, a big barrier for developing countries who are short on money and reliable power - and a problem for data centers in the developed world that are constrained by power and physical space. Further, more and more data is running not on mobile devices themselves, but on the cloud. There is a big opportunity, he said, in servers that are optimized for specific types of workloads and can save considerable power and space.
Server technology will mimic mobile SoC evolution, Lantzsch said. Servers began with multiple applications on a single CPU, are growing into Linux OS-based systems with multiple CPUs and an integrated fabric, and will eventually be based on heterogeneous processing SoCs with hardware accelerators.
As an example, Lantzsch said that a "company ARM is involved with" has developed a dual Cortex-A9 server, and has differentiated its technology with the "fabric to hook devices up and do power management." The slide he showed referred to Calxeda, whose EnergyCore processors claim to bring the power efficiency of ARM processors to the datacenter. The next slide referred to the HP Redstone Server, a development platform announced in November that includes Calxeda technology.
This server technology, Lantzsch said, uses 89% less power than a traditional system, 94% less space, has 97% less complexity, and is 63% cheaper. "Part of what these guys have solved is not just making the cores better, but the cabling that's required is significantly lower. It's more reliable and you drive less power. This is the type of innovation that is fostered by collaboration."
Lantzsch ended his keynote with the same topic he started with - collaboration. Specifically, he referred to the early collaboration between ARM, TSMC and Cadence that resulted in the first 20nm Cortex-A15 tapeout, a breakthrough event that was also mentioned in the preceding two keynotes. "We've never been involved earlier with TSMC or Cadence on doing things like this, and we need to do more of it because the challenges are harder," he said.
Other CDNLive! 2012 Keynote Blog Posts:
CDNLive! - Lip-Bu Tan Keynote Cites Semiconductor Growth Drivers
TSMC CDNLive! Keynote - "We Can Beat Moore's Law"