The chip designer Arm has released Armv9, the first new chip architecture in a decade, succeeding Armv8 in 2011. Armv9, according to Arm, provides three major enhancements over the previous architecture: stability, improved AI performance, and overall faster performance. These benefits could inevitably flow down to systems that use Arm-designed processors.
It’s a big accomplishment for the brand, whose prototypes are found in almost every smartphone sold today, as well as a growing number of laptops and even servers. Apple announced the transition of its Mac computers to its own Arm-based processors last year, with the first Apple Silicon Macs launched later that year. In recent years, other vendors, such as Microsoft, also have launched Arm-based laptops.
Security is the first of three main upgrades coming with Armv9. Arm’s new Confidential Compute Architecture (CCA) aims to protect sensitive data by providing a stable, hardware-based environment. These so-called “Realms” can be generated dynamically to shield critical data and code from the rest of the machine.
The next up is AI processing. Scalable Vector Extension 2 (SVE2), a platform intended to aid in machine learning and optical signal processing activities, will be used in Armv9. Anything from 5G systems to virtual and augmented reality, as well as machine learning workloads like image processing and speech recognition, should benefit from this. AI apps like these are said to be a major explanation why Nvidia is in the process of purchasing Arm for $40 billion.
Aside from these more basic enhancements, Arm promises more general efficiency gains with Armv9. It expects CPU performance to improve by more than 30% over the next two generations, with additional performance improvements coming from software and hardware optimizations. Arm states that all current applications would run flawlessly on Armv9-based processors.
With the architecture announced, the big question is when the processors using the architecture might release and find their way into consumer products. Arm anticipates that the first Armv9-based silicon will be usable by the end of the year.