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back to article ARM's new CEO: You'll get no 'glorious new strategy' from me

ARM Holdings is the kind of quiet success story Britain excels at, and really the sort of thing the data-fiddlers of Silicon Roundabout should aspire to be doing. ARM doesn’t wrangle data and pass it off as a business model. It designs patentable processor technology that has turned US, Japanese and South Korean electronics …

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Servers.

I'd have thought that with both nVidia and AMD going at it hammer and tongs to get out 64-bit ARM chips, probably with integrated GPU compute cores in there too at some point, they have every right to be hugely optimistic here. Even more so as world + dog is looking hard at performance-per-watt.

If anything, I reckon that ARM are underplaying their hand and that it's Intel's share price that should be having an attack of the collywobbles.

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Re: Servers.

Err. Tangible ideas? Really?

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Talk about apples and moonrocks

ARM confounded analysts during its fourth quarter growing sales by 19 per cent while chip giant Intel saw revenues down 3 per cent compared to a year ago.

Even with a slight drop Intel's profits are still enormous.

And then further down "Intel is throwing Atoms under ARM's wheels". Er, no. While Intel has indeed got Atom's to impressive performance/power levels so that the couple of phones with them compete favourably with ARM based stuff, the chips are still significantly more expensive than ARM chips and depend on Intel's better fabrication techniques.

Of course, ARM faces risks in the future. But so does Intel and, as Intel insists on being a manufacturer those risks are higher - sinking billions into a new fab is considerably riskier than trying out a new chip design. The rewards of success are also higher but those fabs just get more and more expensive to build.

Next to the fabless versus fab is also the difference in business culture. ARM's culture of co-operative competition amongst its customers and occasionally with them (Qualcomm, nVidia, PowerVR) and Intel's attempt to monopolise through instruction set. AMD only exists because IBM insisted that Intel licence a second supplier of x86. ARM's model is more in tune with component suppliers in other industries.

As for servers: there is now very little difference between Intel's CISC and ARM's RISC. Intel went RISCy with the Pentium and everyone has been adding instructions to their chips since MMX. ARM still gets more done with fewer transistors. Servers are likely to profit from exactly the same kind of commodification of components that has benefited Intel over the last 15 years. x86 has remorselessly gained market share from Power, SPARC, MIPS, etc. proving that new chips have a chance. This has meant vastly improved toolchains and compilers in the process from which ARM stands to benefit and the APUs of AMD and nVidia are starting to point the way: yes, a single instruction makes life easier for the compiler but if you can offload number crunching to GPUs then you will just get so much more bang for your buck. If ARM's big.Little architecture can demonstrate this kind of switching in real life then we can expect hybrid servers to really take off. x86 translation can be provided in hardware if necessary as the designs for the necessary silicon (Transmeta) already exist.

But it is also simply naive to put ARM up solely against Intel. Unless Intel goes fabless they are not competitors. Rather Intel is competing increasingly with nVidia, Marvell, Broadcom, Qualcomm, TI, Samsung, et al. and the competition will increase as the PC market fails.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Talk about apples and moonrocks

Intel proved with Itanium that it can't create a decent modern CPU design, so they keep tweaking the horribly complex x86 CPUs to try to perform as mobile or embedded processors. They'd still be pushing Itanium now if it wasn't for AMD producing the 64-Bit x86 instructions (which Intel copied).

ARM started a bit later and created a really good RISC processor that was really power efficient (unexpectedly, power efficiency wasn't one of their design goals). So while they are like Intel with their gradual tweaking, the starting point was much better.

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Re: Talk about apples and moonrocks

Sorry, but you obviously do not know what are you talking about, sorry.

Intel's modern CPUs have different micro-ops which are used internally. x86 instruction set is only used as a backwards-compatibility measure and gets decoded to the series of micro-ops (besides, modern instructions such as AVX have nothing to do with the ancient x86). Today's Sandy Bridge / Ivy Bridge architecture has almost nothing in common with, say, Pentium III or even Core. Intel tweaks their architectures in the "tick" cycle, but the "tock" architectures are brand new and very different from each other.

As for X86 instruction set, and the age-old mantra (I believe coming from Apple fanboys) that x86 is inherently more power-demanding, this has been nicely disproved lately with refined Intel Atoms (2007 architecture, mind you) which are pretty much on par with modern ARM architectures in terms of power consuption.

I am not a fan of x86 at all, I use what gets my job done in the best possible way.

But when I read things like this, it really strikes me how people manage to comment on something they obviously do not understand.

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Mushroom

Some folk just know what to do with IT, and just do it quite quietly with the minimum of fuss.

The past certainly suggests the future won’t be such a streamroller of success for ARM: it infiltrated smartphones almost unnoticed, digging deeper under the boring banner of “embedded systems” and left relatively alone by competitors. ….. By Gavin Clarke, 22nd March 2013

Sorry, Gavin C, but that reasoning does not compute whenever/if ARM have another future streamroller for success securely salted away in pipelines for energising embeds and engaging systems with content which is proprietary intellectual property into Advanced Intelligent Missionary Expeditions for Smarter Exhibitionism of Future Derivative Positions ….. Freely Available Options for Competitive Pricing with Fiat Lease Purchasing Opportunities Abounding …… which is same old glorious new strategy in just another field, is it not?

Or is that something which is to provided to them rather than to others first?

Methinks though, you may be left guessing as to what their plans, or the plans of others are for the future, whenever/if it be sensitive and markets disruptive, so that all can be advised of the costs to their systems for upgrading to avoid catastrophic losses, which would very responsible of them and certainly to be heartily encouraged rather than be worried about or even feared.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Some folk just know what to do with IT, and just do it quite quietly with the minimum of fuss.

ARM is a bit like Linux, easy to get hold of and integrate. Okay, with ARM you have to licence it and with Linux you don't need to pay up. But it is this ability to integrate things and minimise component count that Intel can't beat.

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Re: Some folk just know what to do with IT, and just do it quite quietly with the minimum of fuss.

And just like Linux - if you have an idea you can try it.

If you decided that the world needed a cheap low power sata-gige adapter that spoke SMB you could just build one. If you went to intel and ask if they would licence you a chip design that would destroy their server business you might not do as well

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IT Angle

What...?

"ARM Holdings is the kind of quiet success story Britain excels at,"

Umm, sure... care to elaborate, eg name a few more similar success stories from Britain?

No offense but unless there are *others* like ARM it is rather a sole exception (and no, please, don't bring up the state-sanctioned, government-corruption-supported military sector as a success story, it is not.)

Anyhow... I think one of the key factor was that ARM made a very smart decision early on: they didn't try to own the entire business, vertically/horizontally/etc, like monopoly-loving US companies usually try to do - aside of their top-notch technology this is what makes everybody feel very comfy when they choose ARM over anyone else.

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Re: What...?

I'll give it a shot :)

In no particular order

Xstrata, BP, Barclays, British Land Co, Royal Dutch Shell, Vodafone, GlaxoSmithKline, Standard Chartered, AstraZeneca (at least the Zeneca part :) used to be ICI pharma right? ), Tesco, Kingfisher.

There may be a mistake in there as I'm knackered but I think they're all British or in the case of one or two merged but with one British part. All seem to have done alright, I mean I'd be happy owning any of them if you fancy buying it for me :) I'm sure there are plenty more.

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Re: What...?

missed off Rolls-Royce (aerospace)

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Re: What...?

Thanks :) I missed off a few that were too close to being the ultra corrupt state funded evil laser shark filled lair military aerospace caveat listed above :) I figured I was pushing my luck with RDS and AZ as they technically are multinational these days after mergers.

I should point out that those are current companies, if I could include historical ones and wasn't knackered and actually gave a toss the list would be a lot longer.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What...?

Autonomy (oh erm, maybe not), Pace.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What...?

How about Imagination Technologies?

http://www.forbes.com/sites/sharifsakr/2013/03/21/imagination-mips-vs-arm/

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Re: What...?

@AC

Thanks :) I had forgotten about PACE! I guess whilst we are at it, Amstrad. Weren't they making STB's and doing pretty well, I think BSKYB ended up buying them a couple of years ago. That probably counts.

It's easy to slag off Britain for not doing all that much these days but there are still some decent companies out there doing well.

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Re: What...?

JCB, of yellow digger fame?

Not to forget lots of "little" automotive groups like Ricardo and ProDrive that quietly do a lot of world-leading work for race teams and other automotive groups globally (Ricardo also helped JCB convert their Dieselmax digger engine into an engine capable of setting a new Land Speed Record for diesel vehicles).

Also The Welding Institute, who have quite a similar business model to ARM - develop and patent welding and manufacturing techniques, then license them to people who actually make stuff. They developed the Friction Stir Welding process that Apple/Foxconn use to seamlessly bond the front to the latest iMac chassis, although the tech has been used for many other more useful and less aesthetic purposes, including spacecraft, ships, nuclear waste containers and suchlike!

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Happy

Re: What...?

I said from Britain, not bought my multis HQ'd in Britain.

Xstrata - Swiss

BP - you kidding, right? A parasite built on colonial exploitation vs ARM's smart design? Serioulsy, it's offensive for ARM...

Barclays - BWAHAHAHA... sorry, couldn't resist but I'm sure it was a joke, comparing it with ARM's successes... :)

British Land Company - who...? And how is it some preeminent intn'l company for the rest of the world...?

Shell - see BP and Xstrata. ;)

Vodafone - this sounds like an example, I take it.

GlaxoSmithKline - perhaps yes... weren't they originally American... or founded by Americans...? Also big pharma's market raping techniques are hardly comparable with ARM's success in open competition, I think...

StanChart - another joke or another miss of more colonial-era leftover crooks, nowadays specialized in large-scale money-laundering for drug lords, Mexican cartels or just about anyone who pays the 'extra fees'...?

AstraZeneca - hardly Brit, but even ICI was just another state-sanctioned colonial leftover...

...so it's about 1, perhaps 2 more examples? Author was indeed way off branding ARM a typical British story, it seems. :)

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Happy

Re: What...?

I said no state-sponsored scumbags (RR, BAE etc.)

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Re: What...?

BINGO, finally someone mentions Imagination. :) OTOH aside of Virgin I admit I could only name 2-3 big recent (and competing in fair/real market conditions) UK success stories too, but first would be PowerVR/Imagination...

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Whats all this Intel vs ARM rubbish I've been hearing about recently?

Both companies are well entrenched in their respective markets - the idea of Intel breaking into the mobile market is only slightly less laugable than that of ARM based PCs. ARM based servers might be a slightly more realistic however at best its still going to be a good while before a non-Intel based server is anything other than a fairly specialized piece of kit.

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Re: Whats all this Intel vs ARM rubbish I've been hearing about recently?

Any by "Non-Intel" I do of course mean x86.

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Re: Whats all this Intel vs ARM rubbish I've been hearing about recently?

I'm typing this on an ARM pc. It's a chrome book - looks like a macbook air for 15% of the price.

Intel's real concern is ARM servers. Why do I need to buy a $1000 Itanium to run WIndows-server and then pay another $1000 in HVAC just to send a few files down a 5Mb/s connection?

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Re: Whats all this Intel vs ARM rubbish I've been hearing about recently?

While I don't own one myself as I understand it the chromebook has recieved mixed reviews, due to the limited functionality offered. While I'm sure its very good at what it does the chromebook currently sits firmly in the "laptop alternative" category laregely as it doesn't have access to the larger range of software available to x86 based competitors. The reason why thats not going to change is a simple chicken-and-egg problem - at the moment few applications are made available for ARM operating systems, and so the limited software limits the availability of ARM based devices.

Servers are a different matter as servers only need to run a limited selection of software and so the chicken-and-egg principle applies less. That said although at the moment running an ARM based server (e.g. Apache) is possible, its rare at and so for the vast majority of people the technical expertise needed to set it all up (and the limited selection of ARM based hardware) stops it being cost effective for anyone except the likes of Google who have power bills through the roof - its still going to be a while before the idea of an ARM based server becomes mainstream enough for that to change.

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Not flashy but owns a market...

Yep, ARM has never been one to make big, flashy announcements. They found the ARM is a very good design, that they've been able to add features too without losing the simplicity (in terms of die size) and low power usage while having good performance. They see just what needs to be added from one model to the next and put that in, as opposed to using a "kitchen sink" approach which ends up with an overly large complicated design.

This is why I think a CEO change is not too big a deal -- these guys don't rely on smoke and mirrors, or flashy demos, or some risky "next big thing", or "constantly reinventing themselves" or whatever. They have a large customer base and work closely with them to design what they need. They avoid the risks and costs of running their own fabs. I mean, if he pulled a Carly Fiorna and decided he should "cut costs" by eliminating R&D, they'd coast on patent payments but be irrelevant in the long term. But clearly he has no plans to do that.

As for IPhone and IPad -- sorry, but you overinfalte the importance of Apple, I didn't see anyone suddenly become aware of ARM just because Apple put them in their ho-hum phones and tablets.

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Re: Not flashy but owns a market...

Apple were in on ARM from the very first steps out of Acorn, using ARM's first (post-Acorn) CPU in the Newton. The *financial* resources, back in the very early days before ARM had a revenue stream to support them, probably made a lot more difference than Apple going on to join Nokia and co in using ARM cores in mobile phones.

Strategically, it looks to me as if ARM's in a pretty good place right now: pretty much owning the smartphone/embedded sector, with solid backing behind a push into the low-end server market (for colocation in particular, all those LAMP systems could move to ARM very easily; I wouldn't be surprised to see Google, Facebook etc making that jump in the next few years). Intel's great strength is "we can run all your existing x86 code unmodified": great when you want to run Windows with all those ten year old legacy applications, but a waste of silicon for running MySQL, PHP, Node, Java...

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Re: Not flashy but owns a market...

"...but you overinfalte the importance of Apple,..."

While you're right about the relative (non)importance of iphone/ipad to ARM success, I think we must acknowledge the usefulness of Apple's cash injection back in the early 90's, and the iDevice effect does seem to have raised awareness of ARM to a larger IT literate circle and beyond (but RasPI even more so?)

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ARM

"...doesn’t wrangle data and pass it off as a business model" - Apt comment, describes many web "businesses".

"Intel is throwing new Atom chips under ARM’s feet."

...meanwhile ARM is punching Intel in the face.

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Bottom line Intel wants to sell x86 chips to mobile phone makers at PC processor prices

Because if it didn't PC mfg would howl they'd been ripped off.

I think ARM have more of a shot at penetrating into big servers than Intel has of expanding into phones.

Provided the servers don't need to run Windows to supports some lump of code.

Keep in mind this "Great British Succsess Story" was mostly bought to you by Acorn Computers (UK based), Apple (US based), VLSI (US based). Wonder who got most of the money?

I'm glad they will continue to work their business plan for the time being. Thumbs up for their efforts but how many others has the British business environment created?

Not many.

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Anonymous Coward

ARM needs to go 64-bit ASAP, and in commodity embedded mobos, like AMD Fusion.

32-bit ARM is frankly inadequate for servers, even for NAS; you need access to a lot more than 4GB of RAM for a usable server e.g. ZFS needs at least 6GB and I run 16GB for extra disk cache.

Really 64-bit ARM should be everywhere, phones, tablets, and laptops; that would really ruin Intels' day and make flash use far more sensible.

I'd like to see FreeBSD and FreeNAS ported to a small motherboard with a ARM 64-bit CPU, HDMI, enough DDR3 DIMM sockets for 32GB+, loads of SATA or some SAS connectors, and GB ethernet, so that I can have more speed for much less power than the economic but power hungry AMD F1/F2 and decent motherboards, or the way too expensive Intel i3/i5 and the pathetic or grossly overpriced motherboards. Anything Intel Atom is a complete turn off for me, especially the 'premium', grossly overpriced, joke filesystem NAS; ZFS already!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ARM needs to go 64-bit ASAP, and in commodity embedded mobos, like AMD Fusion.

You don't need a 64bit chip and 64bit OS to access 33bits worth of physical memory. If the demand was there someone would make it happen, just as they did with (for example) PDP11, Z80, VAX, and x86, each of which at some stage were capable of addressing more physical memory than they had virtual address bits.

ARM64 is going to happen big, but what you want could be done today by different routes.

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Pint

A bright future

I can see BRIC heading over to ARM / Ubuntu any day now. ARM certainly has a grip on our mobile future, in addition to all the embedded stuff that moves far more units. Cheers!

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FAIL

Sorry Gavin

"The past certainly suggests the future won’t be such a streamroller of success for ARM"

Sounds rubbish and unlogical.

"It was the blow-away success of the iPhone and the iPad - which employ ARM’s Cortex CPU - that turned the firm into the kind of sexy tech story that those outside semiconductor industry cared about and one which competitors like Intel suddenly take a lot more seriously."

Did you wake up a bit late Gavin. I know Intel did not "suddenly".

Incidentally the ARM instruction set is one of the things so damned annoying to the ARM competitors for reasons I suppose you will not grasp either.

Try a cup of coffee in the morning.

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Anonymous Coward

@Article

"ARM Holdings is the kind of quiet success story Britain excels at, and really the sort of thing the data-fiddlers of Silicon Roundabout should aspire to be doing.

ARM doesn’t wrangle data and pass it off as a business model."

And that is the problem with British companies; Smart, Successful, Innovative but Quite. If you have something good on your side, please shout so that the world knows about it and you. Otherwise the world listens and follows only those that make noise and are flashy. There is ample evidence of good companies going down-under because they relied of technological excellence while the sub-standard competitor of the company swept the market just relying on their "noise making" ability! The average consumer does not give rats about what is inside a device unless you make a "brand" out of it e.g. Intel's iCore, Pentium etc brands. I have seen this first hand when I was working on the floors of Currys, PC World and Comet few years ago. Consumers walk into the shop with the statements such as "I want to buy that laptop with the iCore processor that was shown on telly last week". They don't even remember the name of the laptop manufacturers, they say they want the laptop with iCore processor. That is the difference it makes for the company who is noisy and the one who is quite!

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