ARM, TSMC Team Up To Build 64-Bit Chips


Chip licensor ARM and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) said Monday they are collaborating to develop 64-bit processors for mobile, enterprise and server markets, a move that will usher in a new generation of ARM-based chips to rival those of x86-based chip makers Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.

ARM and TSMC said they will produce the new 64-bit chips by combining ARM's ARMv8 architecture with TSMC's FinFET process technology, a multigate design structure said to yield high-performance, low-power processors. The multiyear agreement, which extends upon an existing partnership between the two companies to create 20nm chips, also will involve the sharing of intellectual property and other technical information.

"By working closely with TSMC, we are able to leverage TSMC's ability to quickly ramp volume production of highly integrated SoCs in advanced silicon process technology," said Simon Segars, executive vice president and general manager, Processor and Physical IP Divisions at ARM, in a statement. "The ongoing deep collaboration with TSMC provides customers earlier access to FinFET technology to bring high-performance, power-efficient products to market."

[Related: Intel Reports Jump On Q2 Income, But Lowers Outlook For The Year]

ARM architectures are most widely adopted today in mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, as their low-power design enables devices to run more efficiently and conserve battery life. ARM-based chips can be found in nearly 95 percent of the world's smartphones and will power a number of new mobile devices based on Microsoft's upcoming Windows RT operating system, including the software giant's own Surface tablet.

But with the arrival of its 64-bit architecture, the U.K.-based chip licensor will be able to broaden its reach into markets such as high-performance computing and servers, which traditionally have been dominated by Intel and AMD.

Major OEMs including Dell and Hewlett-Packard already have expressed an interest in ARM-based architectures playing a role in their server offerings. Dell in May unveiled plans to roll out ARM-based Copper servers aimed at helping partners and developers create new applications for hyperscale or high-volume computing.

HP in November rolled out Project Moonshot, a program to encourage the sharing of storage, networking, power and cooling resources across thousands of ARM-based, energy-efficient servers. The PC giant partnered with ARM partner Caldxeda to help with the development of the platform.

HP said in July, however, that the first generation of its Project Moonshot servers, code named Gemini, will be based on Intel’s Atom Centerton processors.

PUBLISHED JULY 23, 2012