ARM dominates in smartphones and tablets, but is aiming to make its mark in the server market ruled by x86 chips from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices. There is growing interest in ARM servers as an energy-efficient way to handle large numbers of Web requests such as in search or social networks. Dell and Hewlett-Packard already offer prototype ARM-based servers for testing to customers looking to deploy ARM servers to cut energy bills. However, Intel is also tweaking its low-power Atom processors to work in cloud servers and will release new Atom S-series chips for microservers later this year.
ARM's new Cortex-A53 is a small core that essentially delivers the same performance as the Cortex-A9 processor used in smartphones and tablets today, Forsyth said. However, the core is 40 percent smaller in design, which could enable more compact and more power-efficient chips, Forsyth said. The Cortex-A53 processors could go into smartphones and tablets, and has an edge over existing ARM processors with 64-bit support.
Licensees will be able to mix and match Cortex-A57 and Cortex-A53 processors. For example, in servers the Cortex-A57 cores could handle a large volume of transactions, while the power-efficient A53 cores could do the quick processing of a transaction when servers are idle, Forsyth said.
ARM is pitching the concept called "Big.Little" in which lower-power cores are mixed with high-performance cores to provide balanced computing. For example, a smartphone could have high-performance cores to handle demanding applications, with low-power cores to handle lower-level tasks like phone calls.
The new Cortex processors are based on the ARMv8 architecture, which was announced in October last year. The new chips will succeed the Cortex-A15 processor, which is just reaching the market in devices such as Google's Nexus 10, which was announced this week. Companies including Nvidia, Cavium and AppliedMicro have licensed the ARMv8 architecture to make their own processor designs.