Chip designer Arm announced Armv9, its first new chip architecture in a decade after Armv8 in 2011. According to Arm, Armv9 offers three major improvements over the previous architecture: security, better AI performance and faster performance in general. These benefits should eventually trickle down to devices with processors based on Arm’s designs.
It’s a milestone for the company, whose designs are powering nearly every smartphone sold today, as well as a growing number of laptops and even servers. Apple announced last year that it was transitioning its Mac computers to its own Arm-based processors, and its first Apple Silicon Macs released later in the year. Other manufacturers like Microsoft have also released Arm-based laptops in recent years.
The first of the three big improvements coming with Armv9 is security. Arm’s new Confidential Computing Architecture (CCA) attempts to protect sensitive data with a secure hardware environment. These so-called “realms” can be created dynamically to protect important data and code from the rest of the system.
Then there is the AI processing. Armv9 will include Scalable Vector Extension 2 (SVE2), a technology designed to facilitate machine learning and digital signal processing tasks. This should benefit everything from 5G systems to virtual and augmented reality and machine learning workloads like image processing and speech recognition. AI apps like these are said to be one of the main reasons Nvidia is currently buying Arm for $ 40 billion.
But away from these more specific improvements, Arm also promises more general performance increases over Armv9. He expects processor performance to increase by over 30% over the next two generations, with further improvements coming from software and hardware optimizations. Arm says all existing software will run on Armv9-based processors without any issues.
With the announced architecture, the big question is when the processors using the architecture could come out and find their way into mainstream products. Arm says he expects the first Armv9-based silicon to ship before the end of the year.