Last month TI announced it was the first to license ARM’s next-generation Eagle core. Today, ARM is announcing the official name of that core: it’s the ARM Cortex A15.

Architectural details are light, and ARM is stating that first silicon will ship in 2012 at 32/28nm. Here’s what we do know. The Cortex A15 will be a multi-core CPU, designs can have as few as a single core but most will have 2 - 4 cores depending on their target market.

The cores will all be superscalar out-of-order designs and support Long Physical Address Extensions (greater than 32-bit memory addressing). I suspect the cores will be an evolution of the Cortex A9. The Cortex A15 will support extensions to the ARMv7 instruction set to enable hardware virtualization support (among other things).

The Cortex A15 will feature private L1 caches but a shared L2 cache (similar to the A9). The L2 cache is stated to be low latency and up to 4MB in size, although smartphones will probably see smaller versions. ARM is promising FP and SIMD performance improvements, but it isn't saying anything more than that. 

ARM is listing performance as 5x a Cortex A8 but we don’t have a good estimate vs. Cortex A9. Clock targets are as follows:

1) 1 - 1.5GHz single or dual-core for smartphones and mobile devices

2) 1 - 2GHz dual or quad-core for netbooks/notebooks/nettops

3) 1.5 - 2.5GHz quad-core for home and web servers

ARM is targeting more than just smartphones with the Cortex A15. This will be the architecture that ARM takes into the low end notebook and netbook market. That’s right, with the Cortex A15 ARM is going after AMD and Intel - it wants to fend off the impending x86 assault on its territory. 

In addition to notebooks/netbooks based on Cortex A15, ARM will also be targeting the server market with its next architecture. As Xeon and Opteron grow more powerful, so does the need for simpler, lower power consumption servers. We’ve seen some companies attempt to address this market, but expect the floodgates to open in a couple of years as ARM officially supports it. The Cortex A15 will also enable virtualization support, specifically for the server market.

It’s too early to know anything about how well the Cortex A15 will do, but it’s clear that Atom (and maybe even Bobcat) are going to have to face a threat from below just as ARM is gearing up to face the threat from above. 

Given that the first Cortex A9 designs have yet to ship it’ll be a little while before we see smartphones, tablets, notebooks and servers based on Cortex A15. Today’s announcement is simply ARM’s statement of intent. ARM doesn’t plan on staying in the smartphone market forever, it has bigger things planned.

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  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    What you need to do is make your OS easily integrate with android, so that an SoC with an ARM core and an x86 core can use the ARM core when needed, with the X86 core asleep most of the time. For example, if I'm just surfing the web, what do I need an X86 core for? It should stay asleep until it receives a wake event such as pressing the winkey to bring up the Start menu. It's really not just for ARM vs X86. What happens when AMD integrates a 1Watt bobcat with a 25W bulldozer all in one core? Your OS has to be smart enough to allow system builders to make proper use of such awesomeness. Windows 7 would not know what to do with a bobcat/bulldozer combination.
  • GullLars - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    You could also make a dual hetrogenous socket mobo.
    For the AMD part, a dual socket mobo with a typical desktop AM3 processor combined with a bobcat CPU (also AM3 socket compatible?) could also give great power savings, with the desktop CPU in C2/3 state and power gated. You could literary run your desktop with all fans off in such a state, and having them spin back up when stuff requiring some work starts happening again.
  • alxxx - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    For what it can run , a majority of linux apps.

    Currently ubuntu , debian and others have arm versions plus the lighter distributions like open embedded , mego etc run on arm.
    The desktop type distros are still a bit slow on current chips(cortex A8)

    For capabilities should hopefully be double to triple the power of the current A8 chips like
    the AM3730 in current beagle board xm

    Thats running a TI AM3730 sitara chip
    chip docs

    Arm sitara slides

    Mixing ISA's in one os is not worth the complexity it would cause.
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  • leviap - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    One very interesting feature:
    Notice the error correction block that interfaces to main memory.
    This should enable very small, reliable and power efficient servers to be implemented.
    One things that (banks for example) implement in all their servers is ECC on main memory. There have been studies published that analyze recorded memory errors from these servers and they are mostly inconclusive. Basically, they don't know if the errors are generated from electrical problems in the servers or radiation or heat causing damage to the electronics. Again, this part looks really interesting for server applications.
    Also: Isn't it great what ARM is doing? It is about time that the monopolistic lock that Intel has on CPUs is broken. Now an ARM licensee can compete with Intel. We will end up with a much larger ecosystem of parts where the CPU has become a commodity.
  • letsgiveatry - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    If i am not mistaken there is windows8 support coming on ARM around 2012/13 time frame
    So this might be processor on which the windows might run and then go after notebook/net-book or whatever you might want to call them
    basically there is a need for high performing but less power hungry processor and ARM can possibly do that with experience and don't forget they can cash on their name around that time when there will be many devices running ARM already for those devices

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