Intel Announces Arm Investment, Talks Up RISC-V

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SoftBank has been gearing up anchor investments in Arm Holdings among its clients and partners for months now (ahead of the upcoming IPO) and apparently Intel is among them. In a call for the Goldman Sachs Communacopia & Technology Conference, the head of the company's foundry business unit confirmed that the chip giant has made an investment in Arm because its technology is strategically important for both Intel Foundry Services and Altera FPGA unit. 

"This morning, we announced that we are an investor in Arm," said Stuart Pann, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Intel Foundry Services, at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia & Technology Conference. 

Arm's instruction set architecture is used in a wide variety of applications. Historically, Arm's ISA was used for microcontrollers, simplistic processors, and system-on-chip for smartphones. Today Arm-based SoCs power desktops, laptops, and servers. Arm is a major rival for Intel's own CPUs featuring its x86 architecture. But because Arm's ISA is so ubiquitous, Intel cannot simply ignore if it wants to be a serious foundry player.

"80% of TSMC wafers have an Arm processor in them," said Pann. "The fact that our organization, the IFS organization, is embracing Arm at this level, investing in Arm, doing partnerships with Arm should give you a signpost that we are absolutely serious about playing this business. Because if you are not working with Arm, you cannot be a foundries provider." 

When it comes to its own products, such as Core processors for client PCs and Xeon CPUs for servers, Intel bets on its own x86 architecture and has a product roadmap that spans many years. But IFS needs to address applications designed for others and this is where Arm and RISC-V ISAs are set to dominate in the coming years.

"Our focus will be for now, much more on ARM and around RISC-V, because that is where the volumes is at, but expect more to come out in the coming months," added Pann.

Earlier this year Intel Foundry Services and Arm announced plans to jointly optimize the latter's upcoming smartphone IP for Intel's 18A process technology, which will inevitably make the new production node more competitive. Interestingly, but at the conference the head of IFS implied that the collaboration could expand further, possibly to client PC and server SoCs.

"For example, we announced something with Arm, we will do more with them, clearly as they expand their base," said the head of IFS. "They have multiple interests in multiple areas, and they have been a superb partner."

Anton Shilov
Freelance News Writer

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.

  • christopher.andrew.carr
    "Historically, Arm's ISA was used for microcontrollers, simplistic processors, and system-on-chip for smartphones.'

    Something that's "simplistic" is too simple for the intended purpose. A simplistic thing is inadequate in its simplicity. Were the processors really too simple?

    The word you were looking for was just plain "simple."