ARM signed two architecture licenses in Q4 which is a rare thing for ARM to do. It has only given out about a dozen in its 22 year history.
ARM said the architecture licenses were intended for “use in multiple end markets including supercomputing, mobile and enterprise.”
I asked ARM CEO Warren East who the licensees were but he wasn’t going to tell me.
Asked if they were for chip design companies or for people who own a lot of servers, he declined to be drawn.
A recent event for ARM was being included in Facebook’s Open Compute Project which specifies interchangeable x86 and ARM processors for its server farms.
Is it a new thing for ARM to work with its customers’ customers?
“It’s always been the case that we work with the thought leaders in a particular space,” replies East, “we have had a direct relationship with Nokia since the 1990s. It’s part of the intelligence gathering process. We try to work with the thought leaders.”
ARM’s penetration into servers has been a long time coming. “Expect to see some server revenues in 2014. That has been the same for the last five years,” says East, “five years ago I said we’d have our first server revenues in 2014.”
Asked if there was any significant metric he could point to which showed ARM did a superior job to x86 in the server space, East replies: “Some of the results from the HP Moonshot project compared ARM with existing solutions which ran on x86, and looked at the cost of ownership, and they were fairly stunning results which were better than the theory.”
ARM’s pervasiveness rolls on. Sales of ARM processor into consumer products including digital TVs and STBs doubled in 2012 and sales of ARM-based microcontrollers went up 25%.
Progress into laptops was not much helped by Microsoft’s Surface which runs Windows on ARM, but East points out that Surface was only the beginning of Windows running on ARM – and it was a very restricted beginning with very few companies engaged in the process.
Whether finfet or FD-SOI makes the running at 20nm is not a critical factor for ARM whose designs can be made on either process.
“FD-SOI looks very good to us,” says East, “the libraries are the same as for bulk. That’s one of the good things about it. It’s a much easier process than making fins.”