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AMD surprise: pin-compatible ARM and x86 CPUs

May 6, 2014 — by Rick Lehrbaum 2,190 views

When AMD revealed an “ambidextrous” processor roadmap based on both x86 and ARM cores last Fall, it saved one surprise for today: they’ll be pin compatible!

As part of its roadmap update today, AMD announced that it has licensed 64-bit ARM architecture for use in developing “custom high-performance cores for high-growth markets.” Additionally, the company revealed details of “Project SkyBridge,” a combination x86/ARM strategy aimed at delivering “ambidextrous computing and graphics performance using a shared, flexible infrastructure” suitable to embedded, server, and client applications, as well as “semi-custom solutions.”

AMD’s ARM+x86 market projection
(click image to enlarge)

Although AMD had already revealed much of this last September, today’s announcement provided a clearer picture of the company’s future processor roadmap, including what may well be its most interesting feature: the new family’s ARM- and x86-based processors will be pin-compatible with each other.

AMD’s updated “ambidextrous computing roadmap” highlights two key technologies:


  • Project SkyBridge — a family of 20nm, pin-compatible ARM- and x86-based APUs (accelerated processing units) and SoCs (system-on-chips), available starting 2015. On the ARM side, a 64-bit processor based on ARM Cortex-A57 cores will implement the company’s first Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) platform for Android. On the x86 side, the Project SkyBridge family will offer models featuring next-generation Puma+ CPU cores combined with AMD Graphics Core Next technology, along with AMD Secure Technology via dedicated Platform Security Processors (PSPs).
  • K12 project — led by Chief CPU Architect​ Jim Keller, the K12 project is developing a new high-performance, low-power ARM-based core that “takes deep advantage of AMD’s ARM architectural license [and] extensive 64-bit design expertise,” with first products based on K12 planned for 2016 introduction, says AMD.

We extracted the slides below from today’s Project Skybridge announcement.

AMD Project Skybridge roadmap
(click images to enlarge)

In conjunction with its Project Skybridge and K2 announcement, AMD said that today it “demonstrated for the first time its 64-bit ARM-based AMD Opteron A-Series processor, codenamed ‘Seattle,’ running a Linux environment derived from the Fedora Project.” The Fedora-based Linux environment is said to enable development — and migration between — applications based on both x86- and ARM-based processors using common tools.

AMD’s complete announcement, including two presentations, is available here.

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