AMD To License ARM Technology For Next-Gen APUs


AMD Wednesday announced a strategic partnership with mobile chip giant ARM, through which it will license ARM’s Cortex-A5 processors for use in its own x86-based APUs.

The alliance not only represents the melding of two long-time rival chip architectures, but a new initiative on AMD’s part to integrate ARM’s TrustZone security technology – which is native to ARM Cortex-A5 chips – into its lineup of low-power APUs by 2013.

ARM’s Cortex-A5 processors are used today to power a majority of the market’s smartphones and tablets. The embedded TrustZone technology within them, which was first deployed by ARM in 2004, equips mobile devices with a number of security features to ensure safe mobile payments and on-line banking transactions.

[Related: AMD Delivers Second-Generation Trinity APUs]

AMD said it wants to include TrustZone in its own x86-based APUs, which are found predominantly in notebook and ultrathin PCs, to help protect against malicious access to sensitive data at the hardware level.

"With AMD’s support for, and inclusion in, the expanding TrustZone ecosystem, consumers and businesses can rest assured their data and content are secured by an industry-standard security solution that spans a multitude of devices and operating systems," said AMD CIO Mike Wolfe in a statement. "This example of AMD’s ambidextrous strategy, which leverages our history of x86 and graphics innovation while also embracing other technologies and intellectual property, will help drive a more secure computing experience for our consumer and businesses customers."

Though x86-based chip makers like AMD and Intel have historically been positioned as ARM competitors, AMD said a primary aim of the new alliance is to spark a consistent, industry-standard approach to hardware-level security that will span "billions" of devices, regardless of architecture.

AMD’s use of TrustZone in its upcoming series of APUs will further position it as a major competitor to Intel, which acquired security vendor McAfee in August 2010.

AMD and ARM also joined forces this week to announce the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) Foundation, a new organization established to promote an open, standards-based approach to heterogeneous computing. The foundation hopes to develop a set of common hardware specifications that can be used by software developers writing apps for heterogeneous computing platforms, like AMD’s APUs, which combine both compute and graphics processing capabilities.

MediaTek, Imagination Technologies, and Texas Instruments have also joined the foundation.