Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at www.aycinena.com. She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.
ARM: We are the champions of the world
November 1st, 2012 by Peggy Aycinena
You didn’t have to crank up Queen to hear the refrain in the background when ARM CEO Warren East stepped on stage in Silicon Valley this morning to deliver his keynote at the 2012 edition of ARM TechCon. No matter how you slice the pie, ARM is the champion of the world. They know it, they know that you and I know it, and we know that they know that we know it.
Yet despite all that knowing, the guys from ARM seem like a pretty likable bunch. A month ago, I heard ARM CTO Mike Muller give the keynote at the Sophia Antipolis Microelectronics Forum, where he left the same impression with his audience on the Cote d’Azure that Warren East left with his audience this morning in the heart of Silicon Valley: ARM puts cooperation above competition, partnering above posturing, and the well-being of the world above the well-being of the bottom line of ARM or the pocketbook any of its employees.
ARM may be the champion of the world, but it’s for a reason. They’re very good at what they do, they’ve had the luck and foresight to be in the right place at the right time over the last 2 decades, and they are as concerned as the rest of us about the plethora [read “billions”] of digital devices descending on the world which threaten to drive us all to the brink of destruction by way of global warming, polluted environs, or both.
Okay, that’s my qualitative take on this morning’s keynote. Following is a more quantitative version.
ARM CEO Warren East started his 45-minute keynote by emphasizing that ARM’s principle core competency is partnering, and said the turnout at the Santa Clara Convention Center this week [with 3000+ people in attendance, a 12% increase over last year’s TechCon] is an indication of the success of that attitude.
East noted that the revolution in mobile communication to which ARM has been a major contributor means young people in the developed world today head out the door not knowing exactly where or when they will be meeting up with friends; it’s all figured out on the fly.
But, he added, mobile communication is having a massively positive impact on the youth of the developing world as well. At the same time, he also warned that today’s global population of 7 billion will swell to 10 billion over the next 20 years: “At that point, it won’t matter if they have mobile phones or not, it will only matter if they all have enough water.”
What to do about the increased load on the world’s resources? East said ARM and its like-minded partners must work to improve “energy efficiency in all devices. Our hardware, software, and the systems we design [must be targeted at energy efficiency], which is fundamental to our business model.”
He then again emphasized that “fantastic technology” such as ARM’s doesn’t lead to “fantastic innovation” without partnerships; ARM’s attitude “offers creative freedom to developers. We provide the core technology, and our partners produce the SoCs.”
Yes, the world is using more and more resources, East consoled, but it’s not all bad news: Along with the demand for more energy, we are also bequeathing tremendous technology to the next generation. Research into smart grids, energy-efficient data centers, better techniques for energy generation, and increased generation of local power to reduce transmission losses, will all help to improve the prospects for humankind.
East suggested that developments in all of these technologies is particularly evident in the area of enterprise hardware. Going forward, he said, server developments will “mimic the recent evolution” in mobile SOCs. Cloud computing will move to distributed computing, and increased power efficiencies will result from putting ever-fuller feature sets onto a single chip to optimize energy usage even at the device level.
He then noted that the world has been waiting for ARM to present a set of 64-bit cores to help specifically with advances in server design, but now that wait is over. On Tuesday, ARM announced its A50 processor series, “the world’s most energy-efficient 64-bit processor.”
At this point in his keynote, East introduced Linaro CEO George Gray, who came out on stage to briefly describe the ARM-inspired, not-for-profit, open-source enterprise partnering group. Founding members include ARM, Freescale, IBM, Samsung, ST-Ericsson, and TI.
Gray endorsed “optimized open source software for ARM servers” and said Linus Torvalds, of Linux fame, has now reversed anything negative he ever had to say about ARM by endorsing Linaro along with the rest of the world. [Once again, you could hear Queen emanating from the floor boards up on stage.]
Following Gray’s 5 minutes of fame, Oracle SVP Judson Althoff appeared through the curtains at stage right, strode across to Warren East, shook hands, and then dominated the scene for his own 5-minutes of fame. Suavely assuring everyone that Oracle was as noble a corporate citizen of the world as ARM, Althoff praised open source everything and said Oracle wants to be friends with you, and you, and you.
He pointed out: “There are now 9 million Java developers in the world, supporting billions of users and devices. There will be 50 billion devices soon, and Oracle will be there [with you and you and you] to enable the resultant ecosystem. We are the one company who can provide the platform [you all need] to support the mobile ecosystem [we all envision], and the enterprise as well.”
[Again Queen swelled from the floorboards as a sigh of relief swept through the audience. All will be right with the world now that we are safe within the warm embrace of the legendary philanthropy of Oracle.]
With that, ARM CEO Warren East was alone once again on stage, wrapping up his talk. The next wave of computing will be connected intelligence, he said, for which we need sensors, infrastructure, and an elegantly conceived back-end. To get this Internet of Things [ARM calls it IoT] to talk to each other, we need to train those with no knowledge today, so they can be part of our special world tomorrow.
East concluded: Everything will become a sort of computer, many people in many different industries will comes together to establish standards, and although vested interests may attempt to throw up roadblocks, we will prevail.
Then with a sincerity that would only be plausible coming from an executive from ARM, he said: If we get it right [and we must], there will be massive opportunities for the people in this room, and their companies, to help society benefit from the technology we are developing together.
Society will benefit, and there will be commercial opportunity in connecting these tens of billions of devices together. Most importantly, if we do it with ARM’s partnership approach in mind, it will mean that we are all in a position together to make this world a glorious place.
You can see a live performance of Queen and the late Freddy Mercury here …
Tags: A50 processor series, ARM, ARM TechCon, Freescale, George Gray, IBM, Internet of Things, Judson Althoff, Linaro, Linus Torvalds, Mike Muller, Oracle, Queen, Samsung, ST-Ericsson, TI, Warren East