During Techcon 2018, ARM’s Drew Henry outed the Neoverse name at his keynote and went into what it was with a few interesting details and reveals. The talk was mainly about the brand because much of the underlying tech is still a ways out from technical reveals. The keynote was meant to set the stage for a term that will be slapped on most non-consumer devices over the coming years.
Neoverse is the new infrastructure brand
So what is Neoverse? “Cloud to edge infrastructure foundation for a world of 1T intelligent devices”. Clear? I thought not. What Neoverse represents is the world of ARM products that don’t go into consumer devices, think everything on the other side of the wireless link that you hold in your hand. It is infrastructure and servers, everything that falls into that category is now Neoverse.
Cloud to Edge architecture
ARM has assigned Cortex to be the consumer brand now so, umm, we can’t really explain how a Cortex-A72 based server would… oh just go with it. As you will see with some of the code names, there is likely going to be a branding shift on the server versus consumer cores coming up in the near future too. Why? That is where the technical details start getting interesting.
Cosmos is a big bucket
The first big reveal was the Cosmos platform which caused a lot of head scratching. There were some pretty heady claims about shipment numbers, one million to date, which caused SemiAccurate to wonder how we missed this platform, we didn’t even have a clue it existed before the keynote. This is because Cosmos is more or less a roll-up term for all the server parts and platforms that are shipping now, not a specific ASIC, SoC, or CPU. It looks like this was meant to put a stake in ground to point out that ARM is indeed a real player in the infrastructure/server space but just muddies the water for what comes next.
Roadmap reveal time!
Remember when SemiAccurate exclusively told you about Ares two and a half years ago? While we were wrong on the marketing name, what was a core is now a platform. Ares in 2019 is followed by Zeus in 2020 and Poseidon in 2021, again all platforms. Going back to our earlier point, these three are all real cores/platforms by the standard definitions of the term and Cosmos is not. Once you know the technical details, agglomerating the current state of the ARM server world will only confuse things going forward.
That said the three new reveals, Ares, Zeus, and Poseidon set the tone for where ARM wants to go in the server space. Each step on the yearly cadence of cores/platforms is said to offer a 30% performance boost from the prior generation. More importantly you can have the same core architecture from cloud to edge and things like VMs and workloads can migrate seamlessly between. In theory but that is always the caveat. This is where things like the ServerReady program pay off.
One other thing that is signaled by Neoverse or the shift to platforms like Ares instead of cores like Ares is that ARM is looking to provide more than just a core to the server market, they are going to up the scale of the building blocks they provide. Ostensibly this is to enable more vendors to jump into the server and infrastructure markets but there is risk. ARM wants the vendors to add their IP to the platform and differentiate rather than reinventing the wheel on cores and interconnects.
To us this looks a bit dangerous, ARM is stepping closer to entering the markets of their licensees with each new IP addition. SemiAccurate’s chats with ARM executives at Techcon made it clear that they were aware of this issue and they felt that it looks much closer from the outside than the inside. Once the full technical details of the platforms are revealed we will have a much clearer picture of where the lines are drawn, but ARM is confident they are not ruffling feathers. It is always a fine dance to add more IP and standard features while avoiding the toes of your partners.
So in the end Neoverse is the brand for infrastructure and Cortex is now the brand for consumer. We are still a bit unsure about the need for a consumer brand for infrastructure IP but at least the break point seems to be a logical one. Where and how the new platforms fit into the puzzle is the important question and ARM is saving those answers for a later date. Stay tuned.S|A