Samsung kicks off march of ARM's big.Little architecture

Summary:Samsung is pushing ARM's big.Little architecture, which utilizes a combination of cores to maximize power savings while boosting mobile computing power.

Samsung plans to give ARM's big.Little architecture a big push as it announced plans to launch heterogeneous multi-processing tools for its Exynos 5 Octa chip.

ARM's big.Little architecture combines eight cores---a combination of "little" Cortex A7 processors that do background tasks and more simple computing tasks and "big" Cortex A15 cores for more intensive workloads. The general theme behind big.Little is that workloads can be assigned to save power while boosting computing power. Samsung's endorsement is likely to mean other chip companies will buy into ARM's plans, which so far have 16 other unnamed partners on board. 

Big.Little is an ARM architecture worth noting as Intel holds its IDF forum in San Francisco this week. Intel will talk power savings and mobile, but ARM has its own march as it rolls out GPU computing and architectures like big.Little that can boost compute and save power. And since ARM licenses its technology and doesn't sweat form factor, the company's intellectual property winds up being utilized by hundreds of semiconductor companies.

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Meanwhile, big.Little could be a boon to ARM since it can license more processors. 

Related:  AMD reveals details on its new ARM-based chip  |  Intel probes ultra-low power, energy harvesting chips in its labs

Noel Hurley, vice president of marketing and strategy at ARM's processor division, walked me through big.Little and the company's roadmap in CBS Interactive's New York offices. "Complexity increases power consumption and mobile devices need a range of performance," said Hurley.

In a nutshell, tasks that aren't demanding are offloaded to a the A7 because it's inefficient to run that compute on a big processor.

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ARM has been sampling big.Little and Samsung is the first on deck. In the months to come, devices will start featuring big.Little as a way to boost compute with more power savings.

Samsung said that its heterogeneous multi-processing (HMP) platform will maximize the potential of big.Little and give mobile device makers the power envelope and compute to handle everything from Web browsing to 3D gaming. Samsung's HMP tools will be available in the fourth quarter.

Topics: Mobility, ARM, Hardware, Processors

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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