IBM Expands ARM Partnership To Include Mobile Chips For Network Gear

IBM has expanded its licensing partnership with ARM Holdings to include a bevy of mobile microprocessors for its custom-chip clients. Announced Thursday, the deal will allow IBM to use ARM-based smartphone and tablet processors in a wide range of new communication and networking gear.

IBM has licensed ARM's Cortex-A15, Cortex-A12, Cortex-A7 and ARM Mali-450 GPU processors typically found in mobile phones and tablets. IBM said the chips would be used for convergence of networking and consumer applications. While IBM has licensed ARM cores for over 12 years, the move is notable because it aims to use mobile ARM architecture in communications gear such as network routers, switches and cellular base stations.

"With the addition of the ARM's advanced 32-bit microprocessors and peripherals to our Power-based offerings, our clients will now have the broadest array of leading silicon technology and design services available -- giving them the ability to create the next generation of communications hardware," wrote Steve Ray, vice president of microelectronics at IBM, in a prepared statement.

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The deal is also remarkable because it's a move away from IBM's own PowerPC cores in ASIC and SoCs. IBM said the ARM licenses will have no impact on its Power cores.

Meanwhile, other chip makers such as Broadcom and Cavium have also been licensing ARM cores for their networking customers. Broadcom licenses ARM's new 64-bit ARM Cortex-A57 and A53 cores.

The move to expand the uses of ASIC and SoC technology is part of a growing trend. In August, IBM created the OpenPower Consortium, which allows companies to design their own system around the Power technology, previously only used in its own server systems. AMD is also licensing ARM chip designs for microservers, a growing server niche that saves space and minimizes power consumption.