Some people, especially those with an eye on the tech world, may be more familiar with chips by names like Qualcomm Snapdragon, Samsung Exynos, Huawei HiSilicon Kirin, or the newest kid on the block, Apple Silicon M1. However, all of these factors underlie Arm Computer Architecture (formerly ARM), a CPU instruction set that executes virtually all cell phones in the world, many embedded computers such as those in IoT and networking products, and some supercomputers. The latest version of Arm, Armv8 (ARMv8), has been around for nearly a decade, but now the company has announced its successor, which thanks to recent market trends has a greater focus on security, AI, and what it calls specialized computing .
The UK-based arm, now owned by the Japanese SoftBank group, does not manufacture its own processors. Instead, designs and IP addresses are licensed to Qualcomm and Apple, who then manufacture actual chips for use. Regardless of that business model, the designs given by each generation of Arm architecture practically determine what these processors will ultimately be capable of.
In terms of technical details, Arm v9 may not be as revolutionary as the v8 compared to its respective predecessors. Instead, Arm will focus on the applications that will use this new architecture, which in turn has been told where Arm is currently in use anyway. In addition to phones, smart devices, and the like, arm-based processors are becoming increasingly popular in machine learning and high-performance computing.
Instead of general-purpose computing as we are used to from PCs and telephones, Arm is putting more emphasis on applications that require more specialized solutions, such as speech and image recognition, which is used for AI-enabled assistants. Of course, AI and machine learning are big topics in the industry these days and even go beyond technical circles. Interestingly, the Arm v9’s performance boost was due in part to working on Fujitsu’s Fugaku, the world’s fastest supercomputer which, as you might have guessed, is Arm-based.
With the increasing use of arm in all areas of digital life, there is also an even greater need for security. Arm’s new Confidential Compute Architecture (CCA) also introduces the concept of dynamically created realms that can run outside of both secure and non-secure software. This would appeal to commercial customers who need to protect sensitive data and code in all states and at all times.
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