AMD has long been competing with Intel in creating x86 chips and just recently the company has also started making its own line of ARM-based chips. With the company invested in both markets it plans to do one thing that no one has ever done before and that is by coming up with an x86 and ARM based chip that are pin to pin compatible. This will allow developers to create a hardware that can use either an ARM chip or an x86 chip giving them more flexibility.
AMD calls this new platform as Project SkyBridge with the first chips using this architecture to be released as early as 2015.
According to Rory Read, AMD president and CEO, “Before today, AMD was the only company in the world to deliver high performance and low-power x86 with leadership graphics. AMD now takes a bold step forward and has become the only company that can provide high-performance 64-bit ARM and x86 CPU cores paired with world-class graphics. Our innovative ambidextrous design capability, combined with our portfolio of IP and expertise with high-performance SoCs, means that AMD is set to deliver ambidextrous solutions that enable our customers to change the world in more efficient and powerful ways.”
The company estimates that the market for ARM and x86 processors is going to hit the $85 billion mark by 2017 and they are in a unique position to take advantage of this. Project SkyBridge is expected to bring in revenue for AMD by allowing it to play on both markets. The market for x86 designs is decreasing while those of ARM designs are increasing. Since the company no longer makes only x6 chips it is able to benefit from this.
The chips of Project SkyBridge will make use of 20nm APUs and SoCs. The 64-bit ARM based variant will be based on the ARM Cortex-A57 core with an integrated Graphics Core Next GPU and is the company’s first Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) platform for Android. The x86 variant on the other hand will use the next generation low power “Puma+” CPU cores.
Simon Segars, CEO at ARM, said that “At ARM we are dedicated to working with partners who revolutionize and transform experiences everywhere from sensors to servers. AMD’s market reach and proven experience in leading industry transitions to 64-bit computing in client and server environments, combined with ARM’s low power expertise and server base system architecture (SBSA) standard, will deliver new capabilities and drive innovation across multiple high growth markets.”
What devices are expected to use Project SkyBridge? Lisa Su, general manager of AMD’s global business units, said that the company won’t go into the low cost smartphone market. Instead, we may see this being used in networking hardware that uses two different architectures to perform certain tasks. A certain task may need the power of an x86 processor while low-end tasks could be performed by ARM processors. Su further said that “It’s way too expensive to support disparate architectures in an ecosystem. It’s really about simplifying that use case… for a given software ecosystem.”