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Old 11-06-2012, 11:39 AM   #1
Raghu
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Default Imagination Tech. buys MIPS

http://www.anandtech.com/show/6436/i...s-technologies

MIPS used in a lot of low cost tablets in China.

Apple and Intel own stake in Imagination, also use their PowerVR cores.

Not sure what Imagination is trying to become.

Last edited by Raghu; 11-06-2012 at 11:42 AM.
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Old 11-06-2012, 11:50 AM   #2
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Not sure what Imagination is trying to become.
They are trying to survive and stay relevant.
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Old 11-06-2012, 02:40 PM   #3
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Is this like a defensive move by ARM ?

And why is Intel greenlighting it?


Trying to make the mobile world into a x86 thing where intel gets control of 90%?.


I don't get this - some wise heads explain.
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Old 11-06-2012, 02:51 PM   #4
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Intel is green lighting it because they're getting access to a portion of the patents.

I don't like the little end comment of the article that ignores AMD.

I'll also give VIA an honorable mention because they do sell a lot of chips in Asia for micro-portables running XP.

Through Sea Micro we'll probably see AMD making ARM SOCs using arm cores wrapped in AMD IP paired with AMD IGPs.
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Old 11-06-2012, 03:49 PM   #5
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Intel "needs" patents in uARCH\ISA areas?
(And i mean needs, not "nice to have" or useful - i mean NEED).
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Old 11-06-2012, 03:55 PM   #6
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Intel "needs" patents in uARCH\ISA areas?
(And i mean needs, not "nice to have" or useful - i mean NEED).
Of course they do. It is surprising, I mean I get the reasoning why you would be surprised that this is the reality for a company as large as Intel, but it is true nevertheless.

For example, a proof if you will, consider that the only reason Cyrix managed to get their x86 license was because they sued Intel over patent violations of Intel's P5/P6 chips which used power saving tricks that Cyrix pioneered. The x86 license for Cyrix was the "out of court settlement" that made all that go away.

Again, totally surprising that Intel would actually allow itself to be beholden to others like that but the reality is that they did/do.

AMD64 is probably the most noteworthy example. Intel couldn't make/sell x86 processors that were 64bit compatible were it not for their licensing AMD's patents on making it happen. We were all supposed to be using 64bit Itaniums right now had things worked out to plan for Intel.
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Old 11-06-2012, 04:01 PM   #7
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Of course they do. It is surprising, I mean I get the reasoning why you would be surprised that this is the reality for a company as large as Intel, but it is true nevertheless.

For example, a proof if you will, consider that the only reason Cyrix managed to get their x86 license was because they sued Intel over patent violations of Intel's P5/P6 chips which used power saving tricks that Cyrix pioneered. The x86 license for Cyrix was the "out of court settlement" that made all that go away.

Again, totally surprising that Intel would actually allow itself to be beholden to others like that but the reality is that they did/do.

AMD64 is probably the most noteworthy example. Intel couldn't make/sell x86 processors that were 64bit compatible were it not for their licensing AMD's patents on making it happen. We were all supposed to be using 64bit Itaniums right now had things worked out to plan for Intel.
I think those are old examples.

And the AMD64 one is not really comparable - Intel had a different plan.
The market just rejected it. Even intel can't get away with everything

I was more curious as to what - MIPS offers the ARM'ish LLC group with intel in it?

It's not like one just designs a ISA\uARCH\CPU - and become a threat to any established market.

MIPS has promise - but it's still far off.
The cheap price? - might as well be change for intel at this point.
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Old 11-06-2012, 04:31 PM   #8
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I think those are old examples.

And the AMD64 one is not really comparable - Intel had a different plan.
The market just rejected it. Even intel can't get away with everything

I was more curious as to what - MIPS offers the ARM'ish LLC group with intel in it?

It's not like one just designs a ISA\uARCH\CPU - and become a threat to any established market.

MIPS has promise - but it's still far off.
The cheap price? - might as well be change for intel at this point.
US Patents are good for 15 yrs (use to be 17), old examples are still impacting the market today.

IP is what keeps Intel from fielding a GPU or an iGPU that rivals AMD or Nvidia.

Who knows what MIPs had in the field of low-power IP that Intel wants to retain access to or take advantage of going forward? I don't have a clue what Mips may have, but I know to never assume they don't have something because in this industry even the guys in their garages have something...that is why the patent trolls have an industry to work in the first place.
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Old 11-07-2012, 12:40 AM   #9
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Intel has a CPU cross-licensing agreement with AMD. If AMD makes 128bit, Intel gets the license too. If Intel makes SSE3, AMD gets to make it too.

Intel got GPU licenses from NVIDIA in exchange for chipset license earlier. After recent court battle Intel is paying money to NVIDIA for GPU license, since NVIDIA cant make chipsets anymore.

I think NVIDIA has GPU cross-licensing agreement with ATI/AMD.

Wonder what Apple gains out of this?
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Old 11-07-2012, 01:16 AM   #10
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AMD64 is probably the most noteworthy example. Intel couldn't make/sell x86 processors that were 64bit compatible were it not for their licensing AMD's patents on making it happen. We were all supposed to be using 64bit Itaniums right now had things worked out to plan for Intel.
Not even Intel was able to kill x86...
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Old 11-07-2012, 07:05 AM   #11
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Is this like a defensive move by ARM ?

And why is Intel greenlighting it?


Trying to make the mobile world into a x86 thing where intel gets control of 90%?.


I don't get this - some wise heads explain.
The short answer is that this is a defensive move on behalf of the CPU industry as a whole. MIPS has been in poor shape for quite some time now - ARM has pretty much booted them out from high-margin consumer products using SoCs - and as such MIPS was putting themselves up for sale. MIPS has always had a polite relationship with with the rest of the industry, but there was significant concern that a patent troll could buy MIPS solely to sue Intel, AMD, IBM, and the ARM Consortium.

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"ARM is a leading participant in this consortium which presents an opportunity for companies to neutralize any potential infringement risk from these patents in the further development of advanced embedded technology," said Warren East, CEO, ARM. "Litigation is expensive and time-consuming and, in this case, a collective approach with other major industry players was the best way to remove that risk."
This isn't a new risk for the the CPU industry, and as a result they have already been buying up patents for quite some time through the Allied Security Trust. So they are using Allied Security Trust in conjunction with IMG to scoop up MIPS before a patent troll can get them.

Allied Security Trust gets the bulk of the MIPS patents (for around $350mil), and will give all of its members access to those patents. Meanwhile IMG gets the remaining patents and MIPS' operations (for $60mil). Someone needed to take MIPS operations because of their outstanding customer commitments, and that someone will be IMG. However it's not clear whether IMG intends to continue with the MIPS architecture, or if they'll roll the engineers and technology into their other products. The latter seems more likely, but IMG isn't saying a whole lot.
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Old 11-07-2012, 08:21 AM   #12
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China's state sponsored CPUs are based on MIPS, probably was a factor in Imagination deciding they were worth buying. Companies are still optimistic about the growth potential of the Chinese market.
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Old 11-07-2012, 09:05 AM   #13
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On another note, can ARM make a high performing cpu with all the patents that amd and intel have without significantly raising the prices on said cpus to pay for all the licensing fees? ARM gets royalties of 6.7 cents for each cpu sold (not this is the mean average of all cpus they design from low performing to high performing.)

Couldn't in the end intel raise the cpu prices of all the cpus in the industry by charging higher royalties to ARM (as well as other companies.) Either you buy an intel cpu and intel makes money directly, or you buy a non intel cpu and intel makes money indirectly?
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Old 11-07-2012, 09:09 AM   #14
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On another note, can ARM make a high performing cpu with all the patents that amd and intel have without significantly raising the prices on said cpus to pay for all the licensing fees? ARM gets royalties of 6.7 cents for each cpu sold (not this is the mean average of all cpus they design from low performing to high performing.)

Couldn't in the end intel raise the cpu prices of all the cpus in the industry by charging higher royalties to ARM (as well as other companies.) Either you buy an intel cpu and intel makes money directly, or you buy a non intel cpu and intel makes money indirectly?
ARM doesnt scale up well. Also why the improvements are so marginal.

But like with AMD, ARM suffers the same problem. R&D budgets. Patents are all secondary.
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Old 11-07-2012, 10:22 AM   #15
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ARM doesnt scale up well. Also why the improvements are so marginal.
This comment is as bad as the claim that x86 doesn't scale down well. Can you give a single technical reason why the architecture inhibits scaling up? I doubt it. High performance CPUs are just not a good market for an ARM licensee to push into.

What you probably meant to say is that current ARM CPUs can't scale up as high as high performance x86 CPUs. Neither can low power x86 CPUs like Atom or Bobcat. And those high performance x86 CPUs can't scale low as well.
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Old 11-07-2012, 10:44 AM   #16
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This comment is as bad as the claim that x86 doesn't scale down well. Can you give a single technical reason why the architecture inhibits scaling up? I doubt it. High performance CPUs are just not a good market for an ARM licensee to push into.

What you probably meant to say is that current ARM CPUs can't scale up as high as high performance x86 CPUs. Neither can low power x86 CPUs like Atom or Bobcat. And those high performance x86 CPUs can't scale low as well.
Don't make the mistake of conflating microarchitecture with the ISA.

x86 is an ISA, not a microarchitecture. Microarchitectures scale in power and performance, not the ISA. ISA merely defines capability.

ARM gets used as both a moniker for the ISA as well as the microarchitecture which only clouds the discussion when comparing to x86 (the ISA).

ARM, the ISA, of course can scale in performance. But right now ARM's microarchitectures are not engineered to scale up in performance to the heights of which x86, the ISA, ends up being scaled with its respective microarchitectures (Ivy Bridge, Piledriver, etc).

One thing holding back the microarchitecture is the memory subsystem (bandwidth) and the cache hierarchy. It is currently designed for low-power and low-production-cost needs, not designed at all to scale up to high performance.

Custom cores and platforms from companies like Calxeda could change that.
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Old 11-07-2012, 10:58 AM   #17
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Custom cores and platforms from companies like Calxeda could change that.
Of course it could change that. The question is, does anyone have the spare funds and time required to do so? I get the feeling that some people have the impression that fast microarchitectures grow on trees and don't understand that it has taken decades of development and billions of dollars to get something like IB, or Power7, or the like (as they all build on their predecessors). You don't just go out and build something that can compete with these in performance by saying "well guys, I guess it's time to make the fastest CPU ever. Let's go license ARM IP and do it in 4 years".
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Old 11-07-2012, 11:53 AM   #18
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Don't make the mistake of conflating microarchitecture with the ISA.

x86 is an ISA, not a microarchitecture. Microarchitectures scale in power and performance, not the ISA. ISA merely defines capability.

ARM gets used as both a moniker for the ISA as well as the microarchitecture which only clouds the discussion when comparing to x86 (the ISA).

ARM, the ISA, of course can scale in performance. But right now ARM's microarchitectures are not engineered to scale up in performance to the heights of which x86, the ISA, ends up being scaled with its respective microarchitectures (Ivy Bridge, Piledriver, etc).

One thing holding back the microarchitecture is the memory subsystem (bandwidth) and the cache hierarchy. It is currently designed for low-power and low-production-cost needs, not designed at all to scale up to high performance.

Custom cores and platforms from companies like Calxeda could change that.
How am I the one who is conflating microarchitecture and architecture? ShintaiDK was doing that and that's why I posted what I did.

From this context ARM could have only referred to architecture. Because he was responding to someone who asked "can ARM make a high performing CPU."

Please tell me exactly what it is that made you think I needed this response, I'm genuinely curious as to what could have made you think I didn't know any of this.
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Old 11-07-2012, 12:20 PM   #19
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How am I the one who is conflating microarchitecture and architecture? ShintaiDK was doing that and that's why I posted what I did.

From this context ARM could have only referred to architecture. Because he was responding to someone who asked "can ARM make a high performing CPU."

Please tell me exactly what it is that made you think I needed this response, I'm genuinely curious as to what could have made you think I didn't know any of this.
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This comment is as bad as the claim that x86 doesn't scale down well. Can you give a single technical reason why the architecture inhibits scaling up?

Maybe I misunderstood your motivation for posting the question as you did, but I took your invocation of the term "architecture" to imply microarchitecture and not that of the instruction set as one generally refers to the Instruction Set Architecture as simply the ISA (reserving the "architecture" moniker for use as shorthand reference to the microarchitecture).

I can see now that if I substitute the acronym ISA for the word architecture in your post that your post does indeed capture the essence of the situation sans any and all conflationary concerns I had when I originally read it.
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Old 11-07-2012, 12:41 PM   #20
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Maybe I misunderstood your motivation for posting the question as you did, but I took your invocation of the term "architecture" to imply microarchitecture and not that of the instruction set as one generally refers to the Instruction Set Architecture as simply the ISA (reserving the "architecture" moniker for use as shorthand reference to the microarchitecture).

I can see now that if I substitute the acronym ISA for the word architecture in your post that your post does indeed capture the essence of the situation sans any and all conflationary concerns I had when I originally read it.
Okay, I could see why that would be confusing. I remember having that problem years ago. I'm used to people generally using "architecture" as shorthand for ISA and microarchitecture for a particular hardware implementation/family of implementations. I guess I took that convention for granted >_>

As for what others are saying re design capability..

I agree with the claims that Intel (and to a lesser extent AMD) have a substantial design advantage due to already having targeted high performance, and having less R&D money. But the question is just "can ARM make a high performance processor" (or maybe it's extended to "can someone make a high performance ARM processor"?), not if they can provide fierce competition with Intel, AMD, or IBM in single threaded performance. And until someone actually tries to allow a single ARM core to use a ~100W TDP envelope you can't say what the result will be.

You probably wouldn't see such an attempt in server markets because it's a losing battle to go for high single threaded perf at the expense of perf/W for high throughput wimpier core loads. ie, it's better to go for a niche and win some ground than go for mainstream where you can't compete at all. And you get better throughput perf/W results designing a CPU that can't clock past 2.5GHz than you do designing one that can clock past 4GHz. AMD is especially feeling this disadvantage.

Where we could theoretically see single threaded performance pushed higher for a custom design is in a console. Since they're on closed ecosystems the competitive pressure is different and the console companies still have an advantage in licensing or even owning processor IP, where ARM is potentially as good a choice as any. And power isn't constrained like in tablets and phones.

But I'm not really placing bets on that happening either.

Nonetheless, I wouldn't underestimate the ability of teams who have created decent low power designs to transition somewhat decently to high performance, just like Intel has transitioned somewhat decently to low power. Because a lot of big design advantages benefit both, and it's not like ARM cores today aren't employing several modern technologies, they're not just 1999 era processors. Although it's less obvious than it is with Intel's tick-tock progression ARM's designs have followed a reasonable evolution, with Cortex-A9 being a successor to ARM11 and Cortex-A15 a successor to Cortex-A8, and Cortex-A57 is clearly an improvement over Cortex-A57. No one's starting from scratch here.
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Old 11-07-2012, 01:02 PM   #21
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China's state sponsored CPUs are based on MIPS, probably was a factor in Imagination deciding they were worth buying. Companies are still optimistic about the growth potential of the Chinese market.
Also, MIPS has a real legacy, and good processors (not fast ones, these days, but that could change). I guarantee you that you own several--but maybe dozens--of them.

Imagination has started to get into CPUs, too. I wonder if they saw this as an opportunity to make use of a long-supported ISA, so that they wouldn't have to prove the software support side of Meta all over the place?
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Old 11-07-2012, 01:22 PM   #22
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I guarantee you that you own several--but maybe dozens--of them.
In what devices?

http://www.mips.com/everywhere/mips-based-products/

You might have one in your TV or cable box and you might have one in your cable modem but I'm not sure it's a strong guarantee. They're not the ubiquitous microcontrollers that you're sure to find in a wifi module or somewhere in your car.

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Imagination has started to get into CPUs, too. I wonder if they saw this as an opportunity to make use of a long-supported ISA, so that they wouldn't have to prove the software support side of Meta all over the place?
IMG has had Meta for a really long time. I don't know why people are only now picking up on it. I guess they made a press announcement about some Meta product recently?

Moving to MIPS over their established ISA wouldn't win them very much at all. MIPS is an easy starting point but the advantage it gives you in legacy/toolchain is close to nothing. They're probably more interested in the engineers and patents than the ISA.
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Old 11-08-2012, 11:02 PM   #23
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MIPS powered SGI as well as the N64, amongst other things.


as for ARM, there's no reason they couldn't develop a cpu uarch that attempts to compete with intel. it's probably not worth it for them because intel has such a huge head start in every area necessary to compete in that market from a uarch standpoint. not to mention intel's 2 year manufacturing lead on the rest of the industry.
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Old 11-08-2012, 11:15 PM   #24
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Of course it could change that. The question is, does anyone have the spare funds and time required to do so? I get the feeling that some people have the impression that fast microarchitectures grow on trees and don't understand that it has taken decades of development and billions of dollars to get something like IB, or Power7, or the like (as they all build on their predecessors). You don't just go out and build something that can compete with these in performance by saying "well guys, I guess it's time to make the fastest CPU ever. Let's go license ARM IP and do it in 4 years".
exactly and besides that if I had those billion $ I would invest ti otherwise. I mean if the can pull it of and get something competitive out (at least in performance/watt) you will still only make like 1-2k $ per CPU. A CPU which will probably run applications worth of 100k or more. (unless it's used for LAMP ).
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Old 11-09-2012, 07:42 AM   #25
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MIPS powered SGI as well as the N64, amongst other things.


as for ARM, there's no reason they couldn't develop a cpu uarch that attempts to compete with intel. it's probably not worth it for them because intel has such a huge head start in every area necessary to compete in that market from a uarch standpoint. not to mention intel's 2 year manufacturing lead on the rest of the industry.
Looking at the billions of dollars AMD invested in an attempt to accomplish the same, as well as the failed efforts of past design houses (cyrix/centaur/trasnmeta), and looking at ARM's revenue/cashflow...it is not clear to me how ARM (the company) could ever be expected to find the finances needed to resource a team of thousands of engineers as needed to begin the 4-5yr uphill climb.

To me, the money aspects of the challenge is one very valid reason why ARM couldn't develop such a cpu uarch.

Now someone with silly deep pockets that was managed by someone who is either a fool or a visionary could do that if they had a design license, say Apple, Nvidia, Qualcomm, or Samsung.

But those companies are successful because they aren't wasteful like AMD in chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, so I don't see any of them deciding to pursue such a resource-intensive development path.
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