Arm’s first new architecture in ten years is designed for security and AI

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Chip designer Arm has announced Armv9, the 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 overall performance. These benefits should eventually trickle down to devices with processors based on Arm’s designs.

It’s a major milestone for the company, whose designs power nearly every smartphone sold today, as well as an increasing number of laptops and even servers. Apple last year announced the transition from its Mac computers to its own Arm-based processors, and the first Apple Silicon Macs released later this year. Other manufacturers such as Microsoft have also released Arm-based laptops in recent years.

The first of the three big improvements coming with Armv9 is security. The new Arm Confidential Compute Architecture (CCA) seeks to protect sensitive data with a secure, hardware-based environment. These so-called “Realms” can be dynamically created to protect important data and code from the rest of the system.

The next step is AI processing. Armv9 will include Scalable Vector Extension 2 (SVE2), a technology designed to aid in machine learning and digital signal processing tasks. This should benefit everything from 5G systems to virtual and augmented reality and machine learning workloads such as image processing and speech recognition. AI applications like these would be a major reason why Nvidia is currently in the process of buying Arm for $ 40 billion.

But aside from these more specific improvements, Arm also promises more general performance improvements from Armv9. It expects CPU performance to increase by more than 30 percent over the next two generations, with performance further enhanced through software and hardware optimizations. Arm says all existing software will run on Armv9-based processors without any issues.

Now that the architecture has been announced, the big question is when the processors using the architecture will be able to release and make their way into consumer products. Arm says it expects the first Armv9-based silicon to ship before the end of the year.