Deconstructing Arm Server CPU Architectureby@ShannonFlynn
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Deconstructing Arm Server CPU Architecture

by ShannonJune 19th, 2021
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Arm Holdings Limited, a Cambridge, United Kingdom-based company, designs computer processing components for other entities to build. Arm licenses its intellectual property so other brands can create products that feature Arm’s chip designs along with their own innovations. Arm offers three server CPU product groups: the N-Series, the E-Series and the V-Series. The Cortex-X2 is part of Arm's custom program for its partners, and it could give a 40% enhancement to laptops and smartphones.

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Arm Holdings Limited, a Cambridge, United Kingdom-based company, designs computer processing components for other entities to build. It doesn’t have fabrication facilities, but Arm licenses its intellectual property so other brands can create products that feature Arm’s chip designs along with their own innovations.

Here are some of the recent newsworthy things that people interested in emerging technologies should know about Arm server CPU architecture.

Three Product Lines to Know

Arm offers three server CPU product groups. The N-Series products are for data centers, the E-Series caters to edge computing, and Arm designed the V-Series for very high-performance computing.

The N2 cores are best-suited for mainstream infrastructure servers. Arm reports that they offer 40% better performance compared to cores from the N1 generation. People typically choose these Arm server CPU options for data center-level cloud and edge computing needs, as well as 5G projects.

Then, E-Series CPUs are intended for situations that require a high data throughput without excessive power usage. One possibility could include 5G deployments associated with low-power gateways.

Arm’s V1 core suits demanding applications like machine learning and data analytics workloads. It reportedly offers a 50% improvement in single-threaded performance on integer workloads compared to a previous-generation product. It also supports DDR5 main memory or HBM2E stacked memory to accommodate high-bandwidth needs.

Arm Launches a New Line for Consumer Products

Besides those three main categories above, Arm recently introduced the Cortex-X2, which is part of the company’s custom program for its partners. It offers at least 16% better integer performance compared to the X1 model. Additionally, it brings twice the machine learning capabilities. Arm’s representatives suggest using it in consumer laptops and smartphones.

Statistics indicate the Cortex-X2 could offer 30% better average performance in smartphones. Moreover, it could give a 40% enhancement to laptops.

A Focus on Security

The N2 cores mentioned earlier are also the first of Arm’s products to offer the Armv9 infrastructure. One of the notable things about it is the increased emphasis on security, which, according to NeoSystems, is something most businesses need to prepare for this year.

The Armv9 architecture includes the company’s Confidential Compute Architecture (CCA). Confidential computing is an emerging concept whereby people can keep sensitive data and apps within hardware-based secure enclaves called trusted execution environments. A crucial distinction about confidential computing is that it protects data while in use instead of just in transit or at rest.

The Company’s CEO Further Details the Security Architecture

As Arm CEO Simon Segars explained in a recent company blog post, “In Armv9, we are introducing new features designed to deliver confidential computing – now an industry priority – at scale. Ordinarily, the operating system (OS) of a device has the highest authority and can see and do everything. Confidential compute changes that, and while the OS still decides what can run, when, applications sit in a separate hardware-protected area of memory isolated from everything else in the system.”

Segars also gave examples of how CCA will provide better protection in particular scenarios. He clarified, “The Arm Confidential Compute Architecture (CCA) builds on the foundations of Arm TrustZone by enabling, for example, your personal banking information to be fully separated from your smartphone’s social media applications. Arm CCA’s new security features mean that even if a social media app did become infected with malware, it could not spread to the rest of your device.”

He expanded the discussion to physical and virtual assets by saying, “Confidential compute is important for client devices, but it also has universal value as it keeps data encrypted while in transit, at rest, and isolated by the hardware while in use. In the cloud, that can also mean protecting physical CPUs as well as virtualized processors running next to third-party code.”

A Relatively Small but Growing Arm Data Center Presence

Sources also say it’s becoming more common to see Arm server CPU products in some of today’s leading data centers. Cloud providers, in particular, have started offering Arm architecture to their clients.

Some of those customers don’t have a brand preference. Instead, they want whatever will give them the best speed, for example. However, with Arm’s emphasis on keeping things secure, clients may increasingly decide they prefer server CPU architecture from that brand.

Exciting Progress

It’s too early to say for sure how much Arm’s CPU products will change the future of computing. However, since the company emphasizes designs that cater to applications like 5G and artificial intelligence, it seems likely they’ll play a prominent role. That’s especially true since security is a high priority.