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ARM: Vendors Want a Single Chip Design, Single OS

By - Source: The Inquirer | B 20 comments

ODMs are interesting in a single architecture, single OS deployment across their product stack.

Lakshmi Mandyam, ARM director of Server Systems and Ecosystems, said on last week that ODMs are looking to standardize on both a single operating system and a single chip architecture across their product stacks. In other words, they want a single chip that can scale from a smartphone to a server and one OS like Linux to rule them all. Vendors are finding this idea "very interesting".

"In the industry there is a trend back towards vertical integration where if you look [back] 20 years [they] did their own ASIC, they did everything themselves and then after that it migrated to outsourced [then] to merchant silicon, but I think people are seeing a benefit for integrating again," Mandyam said.

As an example, China-based Huawei uses ARM-based chips in its smartphones, its set-top boxes, network routers, and base stations. The company also has plans to use ARM-based chips in their servers in the near future. But ARM's architecture can also scale down to the extreme low, allowing device makers to integrate the chip into their products, she said.

Even more, Linux can be just as flexible, scaling up to an enterprise level and down to an integration level. Mandyam told The Inquirer in a brief interview that firms are working with Linaro's Enterprise Working Group to have some influence on the direction of enterprise Linux deployment. They see the open-source, scalable platform as a key component to a cost-effective server.

"If you look at who is participating in Linaro's enterprise group, you have end users like Facebook that are participating as well, because they see the value of getting involved early and it really shortens the time to market," she said. "If you think about the Linux kernel, it's all standardized - based on the ARM architecture. Everyone, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel at different times, you have everyone cooperating."

Mandyam also acknowledged that businesses need to maintain differentiation in order to stay competitive, and Linux allows them to do that. Just look at Google's Android and Canonical's Ubuntu – both are based on Linux at the core, but appear as totally different products on the surface. Google's ultimate goal is to have Android/Chrome OS everywhere: on laptops, in cars, in HDTVs, and in kitchen appliances.

Ultimately using both a Linux-based operating system and ARM's architecture across a stack of devices could cut costs and increase profits for ODMs. Since Linux is open-source, it doesn't cost a thing to ODMs. But will this method reduce consumer choice? Will it inhibit innovation? It certainly leaves Intel and AMD out of the picture.

The interview arrives after ARM said in March that CEO Warren East will retire in July. He took the reins of ARM back in 2001 and has successfully steered the company into changing the mobile market, providing its non-x86 architecture to more than 300 chip customers. In 2012 alone, 9 billion chips were made using the company's technology.

Beginning July 1, current president Simon Segars will take his place. Unnamed sources warn that market watchers need to keep a close eye on what he does in the next few years, as he could steer the company into actually creating hardware, thus changing the computing market once again. Mandyam's talk of a single-chip/single-OS package could be what ARM is shopping around for feedback, a single modifiable, scalable solution that ODMs could insert into their products.

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  • 22 Hide
    gm0n3y , April 9, 2013 10:35 AM
    Does anyone seriously think that having only one OS and/or one chip design is a good idea? Ever heard of competition or innovation? Notice that the article mentions Huawei, which is basically run by the CPC. The rest of the world realizes that innovation requires competition. This is why us techies always cheering for AMD, otherwise Intel will go back to the stagnation of the Netburst days.
  • 15 Hide
    dextermat , April 9, 2013 10:35 AM
    I think the most important question is : what does the consumer wants
  • 11 Hide
    electrogonzo , April 9, 2013 11:07 AM
    "It certainly leaves Intel and AMD out of the picture." Really? I could've sworn AMD has procured an ARM license already. Or does that license only extend to the very specific security needs that AMD requires in their server chips?
    Also, it's not like x86 isn't scalable just like ARM. Linux runs on x86 as well as ARM. Heck, we've even seen x86 implementations of Android and Chrome OS.
    AKA, ARM is spewing nonsense in a marketing scheme.
Other Comments
  • 22 Hide
    gm0n3y , April 9, 2013 10:35 AM
    Does anyone seriously think that having only one OS and/or one chip design is a good idea? Ever heard of competition or innovation? Notice that the article mentions Huawei, which is basically run by the CPC. The rest of the world realizes that innovation requires competition. This is why us techies always cheering for AMD, otherwise Intel will go back to the stagnation of the Netburst days.
  • 15 Hide
    dextermat , April 9, 2013 10:35 AM
    I think the most important question is : what does the consumer wants
  • -5 Hide
    lamorpa , April 9, 2013 10:46 AM
    I'm interesting in a single architecture too! Interesting!
  • 11 Hide
    lsc , April 9, 2013 10:59 AM
    What vendor's want is for us to give them our money without them having to sell anything to you. What vendors want is not to spend anything on R&D, Marketing, Logistics and Supplies and still profit with huge margins. So if ARM wants their chip to be the one Chip to rule them all, they can try, but if they succeed, it would be dark times for us all.
  • 5 Hide
    slomo4sho , April 9, 2013 11:01 AM
    I would be more interested in a OS variety with the option of installing drivers for hardware support.
  • 11 Hide
    electrogonzo , April 9, 2013 11:07 AM
    "It certainly leaves Intel and AMD out of the picture." Really? I could've sworn AMD has procured an ARM license already. Or does that license only extend to the very specific security needs that AMD requires in their server chips?
    Also, it's not like x86 isn't scalable just like ARM. Linux runs on x86 as well as ARM. Heck, we've even seen x86 implementations of Android and Chrome OS.
    AKA, ARM is spewing nonsense in a marketing scheme.
  • 0 Hide
    janetonly42 , April 9, 2013 11:18 AM
    Linux
  • 1 Hide
    Marco925 , April 9, 2013 12:06 PM
    electrogonzo"It certainly leaves Intel and AMD out of the picture." Really? I could've sworn AMD has procured an ARM license already. Or does that license only extend to the very specific security needs that AMD requires in their server chips?Also, it's not like x86 isn't scalable just like ARM. Linux runs on x86 as well as ARM. Heck, we've even seen x86 implementations of Android and Chrome OS.AKA, ARM is spewing nonsense in a marketing scheme.

    ARM Licenses its technology out. It doesn't mean they want a single CPU, they want a single CPU Architecture. so it wouldn't leave AMD or intel out of that scenario
  • 0 Hide
    dalethepcman , April 9, 2013 12:56 PM
    If they made an physical chip that contained the hypervisor and translation / emulation that would allow you to simultaneously run arm or x86 code it sure would make my life easier...

    As for a single chip / single OS, never going to happen.
  • 1 Hide
    house70 , April 9, 2013 1:16 PM
    Single architecture does NOT mean single chip manufacturer.
    I would like the prospect of BYOD in everything PC related, from desktop (where it's already happening) to mobile. One could buy whatever h/w works for him/her and install whatever Linux-based distro they want. Everyone wins (except for the cell carriers, they'll be left accepting people's devices instead of dictating what devices to buy). I am actually hoping that the upcoming Motorola X phone with their timid configurator to open a new trend like that.
  • 1 Hide
    alidan , April 9, 2013 2:00 PM
    gm0n3yDoes anyone seriously think that having only one OS and/or one chip design is a good idea? Ever heard of competition or innovation? Notice that the article mentions Huawei, which is basically run by the CPC. The rest of the world realizes that innovation requires competition. This is why us techies always cheering for AMD, otherwise Intel will go back to the stagnation of the Netburst days.


    ever look at what the consoles can do with ancient hardware?
    1 os for a chip design means you can really pull out 100% of that chips potential.

    is it great for competition... not really, but never discount the benefits of it.
  • 0 Hide
    milktea , April 9, 2013 2:26 PM
    IMO, single-chip/single-OS scalable solution is actually a good idea. It's just a mess out there. I'm glad that somebody is thinking about 'consolidation'. But I don't know if I'd go with the ARM architecture.
  • 1 Hide
    blppt , April 9, 2013 2:27 PM
    gm0n3y"This is why us techies always cheering for AMD, otherwise Intel will go back to the stagnation of the Netburst days."


    I dont consider Netburst to be "stagnation"---it just happened to be a very poor design choice path for Intel. If you remember back then, the buzzwords that sold PCs were mhz/ghz, and the deep pipeline P4 architecture would allow Intel to "wipe the floor" with AMD in terms of clock rate. Thats why AMD went back to their old "Mhz equivelancy" ratings (Athlon XP 2400+ was not clocked at 2.4 ghz). Problem was, the Netburst architecture was based on the idea that Intel would have no problem pushing to insane speeds like 10Ghz, and well, they hit a roadblock with power consumption WAYYYY before that.

    That aside, it was a poor choice, but remember, Intel couldnt afford to stagnate---the first gen Athlons had been putting the heat on Intel's P3s long before the P4, so it wasnt like they were complacent.
  • 0 Hide
    annymmo , April 9, 2013 2:54 PM
    How about taking a page from desktop, laptop pc's and introduce BIOS/UEFI.
    Add standardized communication paradigms PCI and other things like from desktop, laptop computers.
    It has all been made already. They just need to start looking at these solutions and implement them.

    Microsoft already started to demand some uniformity for some things. The handset builders didn't want to have anything to do with it and now we see it hurts the arm-based industry as a whole.

    ARM you have work to do, some reference (easy to use) designs to design and dangle it in front of all the clients. (I guess not many would say no to reference designs that reduce investment cost and risk)
  • 0 Hide
    twelch82 , April 9, 2013 3:51 PM
    One OS isn't a bad idea. One interface is a bad idea. Nobody would have complained about Windows 8 if it came with a desktop-centric interface on the desktop, and a mobile-centric interface for mobile, but was running the same code under the hood. In fact, being able to run mobile apps in a window would have been a nice benefit.
  • 2 Hide
    kenyee , April 9, 2013 3:57 PM
    ARM chips aren't a single architecture....they're messy as hell if you look at all the Linux patches for all the wacky variants.
  • 0 Hide
    scannall , April 9, 2013 6:03 PM
    The way I read the article it seems what they are saying is that companies want a single chip design, and single OS. Within their company. Company 'A' may settle on something different than company 'B', which went with a different chip design and software stack for their products.

    It isn't saying the same chip and OS across all companies. At least that's the way I am reading it. It isn't very clear though.
  • 0 Hide
    ojas , April 9, 2013 9:37 PM
    kenyeeARM chips aren't a single architecture....they're messy as hell if you look at all the Linux patches for all the wacky variants.

    Yeah...v5, v6, v7, v8, v9 v10? I'm pretty sure i made some of them up :lol: 
  • 0 Hide
    rebel1280 , April 10, 2013 6:39 AM
    "Google's ultimate goal is to have Android/Chrome OS everywhere: on laptops, in cars, in HDTVs, and in kitchen appliances."

    Scary thought O_O
  • 0 Hide
    InvalidError , April 11, 2013 11:56 AM
    Quote:
    kenyeeARM chips aren't a single architecture....they're messy as hell if you look at all the Linux patches for all the wacky variants.

    Yeah...v5, v6, v7, v8, v9 v10? I'm pretty sure i made some of them up :lol: 

    And on top of the official ARM releases, you also need to add vendor-specific variants/extensions since chip manufacturers who maintain their own HDL ARM designs usually do so to customize it for their own purposes.