Skip to main content

Arm Pioneer: Nvidia's Grace CPU Is Proof That It Will 'Compete Unfairly'

Grace CPU
(Image credit: Nvidia)

Arm pioneer Hermann Hauser has once again criticized Nvidia's plan to acquire the semiconductor design company, with The Telegraph reporting Sunday that he believes Nvidia is "clearly showing it will compete unfairly" if the deal is approved.

Hauser's concerns reportedly centered on the Grace processor Nvidia announced at GTC 2021. The company's first Arm-based CPU will connect to high-end GPUs via NVLink, which purportedly offers data transfer speeds up to 900 GBps. That's significantly faster than other technologies—it's also exclusively available to Nvidia.

This is why Hauser told The Telegraph that he believes using a proprietary interface like NVLink could end up "locking customers into [Nvidia] products," which "clearly shows that they will compete unfairly with other Arm-based server companies such as Amazon and Fujitsu," rather than retaining Arm's neutrality.

This isn't the first time Hauser's criticized Nvidia's plan to acquire Arm, and he hasn't been alone in those criticisms. Arm licensees such as Qualcomm, Microsoft, and Google have complained to regulators about the acquisition. It would be fair to assume that other companies have quietly joined that chorus in the last few months.

The UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced in April that he wanted the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to investigate the proposal, too, citing national security concerns. CMA must "prepare a report on the competition and national security aspects of the proposed transaction" by July 31.

Nvidia told The Telegraph that Hauser "does not understand what Grace will do or its benefits to Arm" and that "we have been working on Grace using off-the-shelf Arm technology, available to all Arm licensees, long before we agreed to acquire Arm." 

But the criticism wasn't about that aspect of the CPU; it was about NVLink. Unless that connection technology is also going to be made available to Arm licensees, the argument goes, Nvidia will be giving itself an unfair advantage. Regardless of that argument's validity, it's a prime example of the types of questions Nvidia's going to raise every time it announces a new product based on Arm's intellectual property.

  • ezst036
    A lot of visionaries believe that ARM is finally the one who will displace x86.

    Nvidia is the biggest threat to that new future. What good is breaking from x86 when you replace it with the likes of Nvidia? Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    Any company can license ARM's IP and then put together semi-custom silicon with whatever proprietary extra stuff they want tacked on or even license just the ISA with essential supporting IP then build their own CPU from scratch with any proprietary extensions they want for their specific application. Nvidia putting together their own CPU with its own proprietary 900GB/s interface doesn't take away other ARM licensees' ability to do the same.
    Reply
  • hotaru.hino
    As much as I don't like NVIDIA buying ARM, I also don't really buy the argument that they shouldn't get it simply because they have a "competitive advantage" with NVLink. There's nothing stopping any other ARM developer from incorporating some other high speed bus or making their own. Example: AMD developed HyperTransport in response to whatever Intel was doing.
    Reply
  • Gomez Addams
    This is a ridiculous argument. I am not particularly a fan of Nvidia but I fail to see how utilizing a proprietary interface is unfair in any way. No company is prohibited from also doing that so how is it unfair? ARM licensees do not all use the same pin layouts on their chips, nor are they required to, so I fail to see what the issue is.
    Reply
  • RandomGuy2
    Totally agree that this is a ridiculous argument! There might be many reasons to dislike NVidia owning ARM, but this is rubbish. Making NVLink available only to their ARM SoC is something NVidia could do with or without owning ARM, as NVLink is not ARM IP.
    Reply
  • thuckabay
    After the monopolitic <Mod Edit> that Amazon and Google pulled toward Parler, I can only say this: may nVidia clean their clocks! $crew Amazon and Google, as they have destroyed the goodwill they formerly enjoyed. I now recommend to everyone against those companies that have so fraudulently, dishonestly and dishonorably behaved toward conservatives; may they be broken-up and go out of business as the evil monopolies they have actually become.
    Reply
  • Dantte
    Boohoo, its so "unfair" that NVIDIA has better tech then everyone else, so everyone wants to use them... 'We have to bring NVIDIA down because were too incompetent to bring ourselves up.'
    Reply
  • waltc3
    Back in the 90's, the scuttlebutt was that RISC CPUs would "soon" be displacing CISC x86. Didn't happen then, when "x86" was actually something real. There are no "x86" CPUs today--neither Intel nor AMD makes CPUs on the original x86 ISA. Current "x86" CPUs today are RISC-CISC hybrids that carry a bit of the x86 instruction set for backwards compatibility purposes only, but which otherwise bear no resemblance to "x86" of the 80s/90s. The common misunderstanding is that current "x86" CPUs by AMD and Intel are static--sort of frozen and unchanging--but the reality is the exact opposite.

    I think the UK would be well advised to nix the nVidia deal--over the last 25 years the company has shown a marked proclivity for cheating in various commercial and competitive memes and seems to have no qualms in using unfair and dishonest trade practices of all kinds. Microsoft found nVidia so disagreeable to work with that it dropped nVidia after the original xBox contract--which Microsoft had awarded nVidia. After the first xBox, Microsoft awarded the xBox contracts to ATi, now AMD, and left nVidia in its rear-view permanently. After 3dfx pioneered the first actually playable 3D GPU solutions in the late 90s, I watched nVidia level cheat after cheat against 3dfx in order to try and compete--as always, the cheating involved benchmarks almost exclusivity. Doesn't seem to have changed much, imo. The stories I could tell...!
    Reply
  • bkuhl
    ezst036 said:
    A lot of visionaries believe that ARM is finally the one who will displace x86.

    Nvidia is the biggest threat to that new future. What good is breaking from x86 when you replace it with the likes of Nvidia? Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

    Who do you propose takes ownership of ARM then? Rumor already has it that Softbank was pressuring ARM to ratchet up their licensing fees:

    https://www.theregister.com/2020/07/16/softbank_arm_licensing_price_rise/
    Who is going to be a "proper" owner in your eyes? It seems that Softbank no longer wants to deal with the slow and steady licensing free they get from ARM so they appear to want to unload it...
    Reply
  • Umfriend
    RandomGuy2 said:
    Totally agree that this is a ridiculous argument! There might be many reasons to dislike NVidia owning ARM, but this is rubbish. Making NVLink available only to their ARM SoC is something NVidia could do with or without owning ARM, as NVLink is not ARM IP.
    But I wonder whether ownership of ARM would not incentivize nVidia to direct R&D of ARM towards proprietary stuff, i.e. further develop ARM such that it would only or mostly benefit nVidias proprietary IP?
    Reply