ARM processor cores have become ubiquitous in modern electronics, powering everything from smartphones to servers. There are several key reasons why ARM processors are so popular:
ARM cores are designed to be power-efficient, using less electricity than many alternatives. This makes them well suited for battery-powered mobile devices where energy consumption is a key consideration. ARM’s RISC architecture minimizes the number of instructions per program, reducing power demands. Advanced power saving features like clock gating and power gating further reduce power usage.
While optimizing for power efficiency, ARM cores still deliver competitive performance thanks to features like pipelines, caches, and superscalar execution. Newer ARM designs also support SIMD instructions for parallel processing tasks. Performance per watt is excellent, enabling fast and responsive mobile devices.
Customizable and Scalable Designs
ARM licenses its CPU architectures and cores to partners who can customize and optimize them for their needs. This flexibility allows ARM cores to scale from tiny microcontrollers to powerful application processors. Partners can add custom instructions, adjust cache sizes, and modify other parameters to tune ARM cores to specific applications.
The ARM ecosystem includes extensive software support, development tools, and pre-designed peripheral IP suitable for integrating with ARM cores. This rich ecosystem lowers barriers to adopting ARM and makes it easier for designers to get products to market quickly. Long-term software support also provides stability.
ARM processor IP is available at lower cost compared to designing custom architectures from scratch. The license model spreads out costs over large production volumes. ARM’s pre-verified design building blocks save engineering resources during implementation. Taken together, ARM delivers capabilities at competitive price points.
Simpler, cleaner RISC architectures make ARM cores small, low complexity designs compared to some alternatives. This allows ARM processors to fit into tight space constraints in mobile and embedded applications. Lower complexity also makes verification easier and lowers risk.
ARM architecture builds on established RISC principles that many programmers are familiar with. This makes adoption easier, with less retraining required. Code portability is also improved relative to radically different ISAs.
Fabless Semiconductor Model
ARM’s fabless design approach has been a key enabler of its wide adoption. ARM’s model allows virtually any company to license and produce ARM processors. This has created a highly competitive, innovative market with multiple ARM chip vendors.
The popularity of ARM in universities for research and teaching has led to a skilled workforce familiar with ARM programming and design. Students move from academia into industry with ARM experience, propagating its use.
ARM powered the smartphone revolution by delivering efficient processing for mobile experiences. As smartphones grew to dominate consumer technology, ARM rode that wave to ubiquity. Now ARM also powers efforts to adapt smartphones for emerging markets.
Internet of Things
ARM’s energy efficiency makes it a natural fit for the emerging Internet of Things era. ARM Cortex-M microcontrollers power the growing world of connected sensors, smart home devices, wearables, and industrial automation.
Advanced security features like ARM TrustZone safely protect sensitive data on smartphones and set ARM apart from RISC-V and other competitors. This is critical for financial, enterprise, and government applications.
Recent adoption of ARM server processors in cloud data centers is expanding ARM’s reach. Amazon EC2 Graviton instances and Apple’s custom silicon showcase ARM’s cloud capabilities.
Partnership with TSMC
ARM’s strategic multi-decade partnership with TSMC, the world’s largest contract chip manufacturer, has enabled consistent leading-edge manufacturing for ARM chip partners. This ensures ARM implementations benefit from latest process nodes.
ARM’s licensing model has created a vibrant ecosystem, expanded their reach, and grown their royalty revenue streams. Partners are incentivized to innovate on ARM-based designs while standardizing on one architecture.
Reputation and Longevity
After over 30 years in the industry, ARM has a strong reputation for providing efficient, capable processor IP leading to many successful end products. Their longevity provides confidence in continued ARM support.
Range of Processor Options
ARM’s wide range of processor families and configurations cater to diverse use cases. Options range from the tiny, efficient Cortex-M up to the high performance Cortex-A series. There are ARM options suitable for just about any application.
By bringing together efficiency, customization, an enabling ecosystem, and innovative design principles, ARM architecture delivers outstanding value across a wide swath of applications from sensors to servers. After initial smartphone success, ARM’s advantages have proliferated across emerging categories like IoT and cloud computing. With its balance of attributes, ARM is poised for continued growth and impact going forward.