|By Maureen O'Gara||
|June 19, 2012 10:15 AM EDT||
AMD, which has been suggestively flitting about ARM for months without committing, finally has - but not in the conventional way.
It's going to license ARM's one-core Cortex-A5 smartphone processor and develop an x86 security processor using the A5's TrustZone technology, which cordons off secure zones where hackers can't modify the software.
AMD said Wednesday that it will integrate that widgetry into some new APUs - AMD CPU chips with advanced graphics on the same die - using a system-on-a-chip (SoC) design. It expects to have those gismos on development platforms next year. Starting with chips for tablets and thin laptops, the portfolio will expand to all AMD's chips in 2014 including, at some point, Opteron.
AMD is promising a more secure end-to-end environment for mobile, web and cloud. It's particularly thinking of secure online transactions and sensitive data and operations protected at the hardware level.
It paints a picture of a consistent approach to security spanning billions of Internet-connected mobile devices, tablets, PCs and servers - whether powered by ARM chips or AMD x86 APUs.
The strategic alliance, which reportedly began more than a year ago, is an attempt to outflank Intel, which bought security house McAfee for $7.7 billion in February of 2011 for its own silicon. It puts ARM and ARM maybe a year behind the semiconductor giant.
ARM's aim is to drive scalability and industry alignment behind the eight-year-old TrustZone, already the dominant security technology for smartphones and tablets. Separately it has its own server ambitions.
In a statement Insight 64 principal Nathan Brookwood said, "The bad guys have figured out that it's easier to steal money from a bank's computers than from the bank itself. AMD's move to integrate ARM's TrustZone technology into future APUs will allow systems containing those APUs to attain the same level of hardware-enforced security as today's most advanced devices, and will allow the users of those systems to sleep more soundly at night."
AMD says the new axis is the "first time hardware will be aligned to an industry-standard security solution between multiple processor architectures and has garnered wide support from industry leaders and influencers."
To kinda prove its point AMD Tuesday set in train the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) Foundation, a non-profit consortium including, for the moment, ARM, Imagination Technologies, MediaTek and Texas Instruments.
HAS is supposed to drive a single architecture specification and standardize a programming model to help software developers out - in the name of cloud-based data management, streaming and security - with so-called heterogeneous processors that combine two or more different types of processors into a single chip.
The unifying model will provide for scalar processing on the CPU and parallel processing on the GPU while enabling high-bandwidth access to memory and high application performance at low power consumption.
The heterogeneous or hybrid processor market is currently supposed to be worth $55.5 billion.