AMD unveils SkyBridge ARM, x86 chip roadmap

May 6, 2014 // 9:32 a.m.

Tags: #20nm #64-bit #amd #amd-k12 #amd-skybridge #apu #arm #cortex-a57 #gcn #hsa #k12 #opteron-a-series #project-skybridge #puma #skybridge #soc

AMD has announced its plan to revitalise its semiconductor business: a new roadmap promising motherboards that are pin-compatible with x86 and ARM processors, for what the company is calling 'ambidextrous computing.'

Announced at a press event late last night, the new roadmap is highlighted by Project SkyBridge. Due to launch next year, SkyBridge will offer a new family of 20nm accelerated processing unit (APU) and system-on-chip (SoC) processors which offer a choice of ARM Cortex-A57 or Puma+ processing cores - the former being a 64-bit ARM instruction set architecture, and the latter a 64-bit x86 instruction set architecture.

Where the chips will differ from what has gone before, however, is that both will be compatible with the same motherboard. System builders can pick up a single SkyBridge-compatible board, and then choose to build an x86 or ARM product; later, the architecture could be flipped once more with no hardware redesign required - although the software will, naturally, have to be recompiled for the new architecture.

'Before today, AMD was the only company in the world to deliver high performance and low-power x86 with leadership graphics,' claimed AMD's president and chief executive Rory Read at the event. '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.'

Project SkyBridge is to be followed in 2016 with K12, a lower-power implementation of the Cortex-A57 cores in SkyBridge which nevertheless retain their 64-bit nature. Specifications for SkyBridge and K12 were not provided at the event, besides the promise of full Heterogeneous Systems Architecture (HSA) certification and the use of AMD's Graphics Core Next (GCN) technology.

To prove it can make the leap from x86 to ARM, AMD also demonstrated its Seattle Opteron A-Series ARM-based server processors at the event, showing off their ability to run a Fedora-based Linux distribution with high performance in a low power envelope.

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