ARM/高通/微软合力搞事,英特尔最得意的PC阵营要失守?

Release time:2017-06-14
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source:DeepTech深科技
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美国当地时间 6 月 8 日,Intel (英特尔)在其官方博客上发表了一篇名为“X86:走过40载,依旧强大”(X86: Approaching 40 and Still Going Strong)的专题文章,来纪念 x86 微处理器诞生 40 周年。

1978 年,第一台 IBM 个人电脑就是搭载的这种处理器。时至今日,基于 x86 架构的处理器仍是绝大部分 PC 和笔记本电脑的核心处理单元。但是,Intel 这座最后的堡垒似乎即将面临攻击,无路可退的 Intel 必将挥舞着法律大棒,死守其核心利益。

细心的人在阅读这篇纪念文章时会发现,它绝不是一篇简单的 x86 发展历史梳理。在纪念文章末尾处,Intel 加入了一段“警告”,表示绝不会对任何试图侵犯 x86 及其周边专利的行为坐视不管。

 

英特尔发警告 软硬结合典范<a href='/article/tag/Wintel' target='_blank' style='cursor:pointer;color:#D05C38;text-decoration:underline;'>Wintel</a>或将分崩离析

6月8日发表在 Intel 官方博客上的文章

“有消息表明,在没有得到 Intel 授权的情况下,某些公司试图模拟 Intel 拥有专利的 x86 指令集架构……Intel 欢迎任何形式的合法竞争,而且我们有十足的信心来保证Intel的微处理器会为用户带来最佳的体验、运行程序的流畅度、丰富的产品选择,以及为企业级用户提供易于管理的IT整合方案。毕竟,我们的处理器历经了 40 年专门针对 x86 架构的优化,时间会证明一切。”

“然而,任何对 Intel 专利的非法侵犯都是无法容忍的。我们由衷希望某些公司能尊重 Intel 的知识产权。完善的知识产权保护是 Intel 在 x86 指令集架构方面持续投入与开发的基本前提,Intel也会在保护公司的创新成果和投资方面持续保持警惕。”

——摘自Intel官方微博文章“X86:走过 40 载,依旧强大”



虽然 Intel 这篇意味深长的博文并未提及是哪些公司试图侵犯其专利,Intel的官方发言人也拒绝透露这些公司的名字,但全世界都知道,Intel指的就是微软和高通,因为这两者曾宣布将共同推出一版基于高通骁龙 835 的 Windows10 操作系统。由于骁龙 835 是基于 ARM 框架的芯片,它必须使用模拟器才能运行原本基于 x86 架构的操作系统与应用程序。

近些年来,由于移动设备的兴起,Intel头上“世界销量最大的芯片公司”的头衔早已被 ARM(和旗下的客户协力)夺走。基于 ARM 框架的移动设备芯片无处不在,除了智能手机和平板电脑这种你想得到的,还有各种你想象不到的,比如咖啡机、汽车、电视和音箱等等。

面对 ARM 强大的竞争压力,Intel 必须严防 PC、笔记本电脑和一些商业服务器等基于 x86 框架的市场,因为这已经相当于 Intel 最后一块地盘。Intel 在其 x86 框架指令集中有着大量的专利,作为自己的专利堡垒。除了个别公司,如 AMD 和威盛(VIA)之外,Intel 并未将其 x86 相关技术做广泛授权。

所以说,任何试图模拟 x86 指令集架构的行为,尤其是来自基于 ARM 框架的芯片商,都会被 Intel 视作意图染指自己的利益,势必会让其搬出知识产权保护法的利器。


 高通基于骁龙835的PC主版原型,尺寸仅为50.4平方厘米

实际上,自从 Intel 在 1978 年推出首个基于 x86 框架的芯片:8086 之后,在接下来的 39 年里,这个框架以层出不断的创新推动了整个 PC 市场的繁荣。年纪大的读者应对这个框架早期的芯片有所印象,比如 1982 年核频率只有12.5MHz的 286, 1985 年33MHz的 386,和 1989 年100MHz的486。

正是这几款芯片为 Intel 打下了核实的基础,也是该框架 x86 名称的得来。而486之后的Pentium(奔腾), Celeron(赛扬),Xeon(至强),以及Core(酷睿)则更是家喻户晓的品牌了(Xeon作为服务器处理器,名气在普通用户中会小一些)。


这里有必要解释一下 Intel 为何会坚守 x86 架构,并将其发展成一个枝繁叶茂的大型专利池的。1978年,在 x86 出生时,Intel 还只是一家普通的科技公司。尽管在最初的几年,x86 并没有引起太大的关注,但三年后,x86 架构获得了 IBM 的认可,并将其应用到全球首台个人电脑。很快,x86一跃成为了个人计算机的标准平台,成为史上最成功的CPU架构。所以,Intel如今的地位很大程度上是借助x86架构帮助。

从那时起,Intel的战术就变得非常明确:专精于x86架构处理器,绝不涉及设备生产。这样做的结果就是,不论设备制造商、软件或系统开发者都可以与 Intel 进行合作,而不会产生利益冲突。得益于这种开放性和平台概念,x86架构的兼容性也愈发强大,生态体系也日趋完善,这才成就了目前PC处理器市场Intel一家独大的局面。



正因为 x86 是 Intel 的立身之本,Intel 才会一直不遗余力的对 x86 架构指令集进行大幅度的拓展和优化,增添了包括 SSE、AVX、TSX 事务内存,以及 SGX 安全区域等功能,唯一的目标就在于让这一古老的指令集重焕新生。

当然,从另一个角度来看,由于美国专利只有 20 年的期限,Intel 对 x86 的指令集不断推出新的拓展也是为了加固自己的专利堡垒。

由于 x86 框架完全向后兼容,Intel 的布局可以使不少被广泛采用的应用程序得以扩展。而且,这些新的扩展应用依旧能被仍Intel的专利所覆盖。在大多数情况下,这些扩展都属于同一类别:SIMD(单指令多数据流)指令集,这些指令在某些类型的数字处理、视频和图像处理以及游戏等领域中广泛使用。


英特尔发警告 软硬结合典范Wintel或将分崩离析

使用 SIMD 指令集的图像处理在性能方面获得大幅提升

举例而言,作为 SIMD 指令集中的一个类别,AVX 指令集属于比较新的。不过,由于其诞生较晚,开发者并不能默认它存在于所有用户的硬件当中。因此,为了确保向后兼容性,他们并没有舍弃那些非AVX代码。这样,在缺乏 AVX 指令集的情况下,他们的程序依然可以跑起来。

但 AVX 的上一代指令集 SSE 却不太可能有类似的备选方案。因为AMD将 SSE2 作为其 64 位架构 AMD64 扩展的一部分,这意味着,几乎过去十年售出的所有芯片都能够支持SSE2。因此,开发人员不需要担心SSE2失效的情况。但是,这意味着几乎所有的 x86 程序都需要SSE指令集才能运行。


 

英特尔发警告 软硬结合典范Wintel或将分崩离析

Intel、AMD均支持MMX、SSE、AVX等指令集

而这正是 Intel 的专利堡垒在覆盖范围上的厉害之处。因为 SSE 指令集也算新生事物:各种 SSE 扩展在 1999 年至 2007 年才被引入。所以,任何覆盖它的专利目前都继续有效。作为 Intel 专利的 SSE 指令集,我们很难想象任何 x86 模拟器将如何避开这些专利,同时还能提供与 x86 相似的兼容性。

不过,由于早期 32 位的 x86 指令集已诞生超过 30年,早已失去了专利保护。而包括TSX、SGX、MPE和VT-x虚拟化等 Intel 引以为傲的功能却如无味鸡肋,鲜少有应用会用到这些功能。

从这个角度来看,SSE指令集或许将成为Intel和高通等ARM框架芯片商法律冲突之间的焦点,而高通等选择模拟 x86 框架的芯片商也会尽最大努力避开 Intel 的专利。

所以,不出所料,在这篇意味深长的博文中,Intel 梳理完 x86 的发展路径后,笔锋一转,开始重点强调这些所有的技术创新成果都已经申请了专利。目的显而易见,就是为了防止竞争对手的抄袭和滥用,包括AMD、Cyrix、VIA和 Transmeta 等在内的公司都已经被 Intel 列入了“重点关注对象”名单。

但如果仅仅出于这个目的,恐怕还不会引起 Intel 如此大动肝火,在它眼里,曾经的战友微软,和志在杀入桌面及处理器市场的高通,恐怕才是 Intel 需要应对的当务之急。


英特尔发警告 软硬结合典范Wintel或将分崩离析

1996-2015 年,围绕 x86 及其扩展技术,Intel 申请了大量的专利

按照惯例,在今年晚些时候,包括华硕、惠普和联想在内的厂商都将推出搭载高通骁龙 835 处理器的 Windows 笔记本电脑。而作为系统提供商,微软此次也不是首次推出基于 ARM 架构的 Windows 系统了,其早在 2012 年就推出了 Windows RT 系统。

但这次与以往不同的是:这次登场的Windows 10系统全部配有x86架构模拟器,可以实现大部分x86应用程序的正常运行。

换句话说,这一转变就相当于微软、高通和ARM三家联手绕过了Intel,使得Windows用户在几乎不受影响的前提下,成功实现了由Intel平台向“高通+ARM”平台的无缝切换。

而微软的此次选择,也是因为看中了ARM架构所带来的低成本、长续航和前卫的设计等诸多优点。曾作为业界典范的Wintel(Windows + Intel)组合也就在这一场暗战中逐渐土崩瓦解。


英特尔发警告 软硬结合典范Wintel或将分崩离析


当然,有人欢喜有人愁,微软的举动对 Intel 来说无疑是雪上加霜。在征战移动端失败草草收场之后,这次 PC 市场的地位动摇显然是这位昔日霸主所不能接受的,哪怕是诉诸法律也要奋力一搏。


英特尔发警告 软硬结合典范Wintel或将分崩离析

将最好的智能手机设计应用于PC,成了微软与高通合作的最大卖点

当然,这些可能只是Intel单方面的强硬态度,在实际投入使用之前,我们很难确切掌握微软 x86 模拟器的具体技术细节。x86的专利在业内已广为人知,如果微软声称在开发模拟器时没有考虑到这个专利,似乎也显得不太合理。

另外,Intel的商业生态和微软有着千丝万缕的关系,这使得这家芯片公司哪怕真要将微软(或其客户)告上法庭时,也得三思而后行了。

有意思的是,就在 Intel 发布官方博客表达在 x86 专利方面的强硬立场后的第二天,即 6 月 9 日,高通也发布了一条官方声明,虽未点名Intel,但却也充满明嘲暗讽。全文如下:

“鉴于我们(高通)近期与华硕、惠普、联想等公司的公告,我们发现某家竞争对手于 8 日发表的博客文章很有意思。我们期待着于今年晚些时候发布基于高通骁龙 835 的实时互联移动PC平台。就如我们在今年的Computex上与合作伙伴微软共同展示的那样,全新的骁龙835移动PC平台将采用超薄无风扇设计,并通过千兆级带宽的 LTE 连接,以及超长的续航能力,来保证设备的实时互联。这必将改变个人电脑的未来。”

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Drops its involvement in Arm mini China for $775.2 million after the European Union prepare legal proceedingsSoftBank Group, owner of microprocessor IP firm Arm, announced this week that the British firm will sell its majority 51% stake to Chinese investors and ecosystem partners for $775.2 million to form a joint venture for Arm’s business in China. Under the agreement, Arm will still receive a significant proportion of all license, royalty, software, and service revenues arising from Arm China.Arm had already transferred its IP to the joint venture last month, enabling its Chinese operation to enable local chip developers license technology directly in China. This has raised alarm bells within the European Union, with the EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, launching legal proceedings last week in the World Trade Organization (WTO) against Chinese legislation that undermines the intellectual property rights of European companies.Whether Arm’s hand was forced or not, the company’s rationale for the latest transaction was outlined in SoftBank’s press statement, saying that around 95% of all advanced chips designed in China in 2017 were based on Arm technology, with 20% of the company’s global revenues coming from China in the fiscal year ended March 2018. The statement adds, “The Chinese market is valuable and distinctive from the rest of the world. Arm believes this joint venture, which will license Arm semiconductor technology to Chinese companies and locally develop Arm technology in China, will expand Arm’s opportunities in the Chinese market.”Arm would not comment on the statement, but what the transaction means is that Arm China revenue will no longer be reported under SoftBank’s consolidated accounts once the transaction completes, which it is expected to do this month.The European Union’s Cecilia Malmström said in its case filed on June 1, “Technological innovation and know-how is the bedrock of our knowledge-based economy. It’s what keeps our companies competitive in the global market and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs across Europe. We cannot let any country force our companies to surrender this hard-earned knowledge at its border. This is against international rules that we have all agreed upon in the WTO. If the main players don’t stick to the rulebook, the whole system might collapse.”The EU statement adds that European companies going to China are forced to grant ownership or usage rights of their technology to domestic Chinese entities and are deprived of the ability to freely negotiate market-based terms in technology transfer agreements. This is at odds with the basic rights that companies should be enjoying under the WTO rules and disciplines, particularly under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement).The case initiated by the EU targets specific provisions under the Chinese regulation on import and export of technologies (known as “TIER”) and the regulation on Chinese-foreign equity joint ventures (known as “JV Regulation”) that discriminate against non-Chinese companies and treat them worse than domestic ones. These provisions violate WTO obligations to treat foreign companies on an equal footing with domestic ones and to protect intellectual property like patents and undisclosed business information.The EU says that if the consultations requested do not reach a satisfactory solution within 60 days, the EU will be able to request that WTO sets up a panel to rule on the matter. While the EU’s request is similar to the one brought recently to the WTO by the U.S., it also identifies further potential violations of WTO rules.The U.K.’s Financial Times reports Rene Haas, Arm’s president of its IP group, suggesting that it’s still business as usual, saying, “The partners in China are still using the very same technology they were using prior to the JV being established. If you are a local partner, the biggest change is that you are now operating on a PRC contract as opposed to a U.K. contract.”
2018-06-08 00:00 reading:384
Arm announced a new mobile CPU core that it said can deliver performance within 10% of Intel’s latest Skylake chips. Analysts praised the architecture’s leap forward but said that they doubt Arm will take a significant share of today’s x86-based notebooks.The Cortex-A76 arrives in tandem with new Mali G76 GPU and V76 video cores. All three are expected to appear in premium smartphone SoCs before the end of the year.The A76 marks a full redesign for mobile systems, packing up to 2-Mbytes L2 cache, 4-Mbytes L3, and running at more than 3 GHz in a 7-nm node. It aims to deliver 90% of the Specint2006 performance of an Intel mobile Skylake chip with one-fourth the area and half the power — or roughly the same performance in thermally constrained systems.“We’re looking to close the gap with Intel … this marks the first step in a new family, and it’s the biggest leap we’ve taken in our roadmap,” said Mike Filippo, an Arm fellow and lead architect for the A76.Compared to an A72 core at 10 nm, a 7-nm A76 should deliver 35% more performance or use 40% less power. That’s a step up from 15% to 25% increases that Arm typically delivers with annual core upgrades. In its day, the A72 delivered about 75% of the performance of Intel’s mobile Broadwell processors.The comparisons are based on CPUs running at similar frequencies. Arm acknowledged that Intel’s chips typically support higher frequencies than Arm’s cores. Although TSMC announced a 4-GHz A72 test chip, few SoC makers are expected to push their designs to such extreme speeds.Arm is preparing a separate core for wired servers and networking gear. The A76 aims to expand Arm’s dominance in smartphones into laptops with 4+4 A76/A55 configurations sporting large caches.“We think you’ll see meaningful volumes in laptops,” said Filippo, but some analysts disagree.Arm-based notebooks lack differentiation, said Bob O’Donnell of Technalysis Research. They offer slightly less performance and about the same price as x86 systems. Although the Arm portables sport longer battery life and often build in cellular modems, O’Donnell doubts that those factors will sway many buyers.That said, Asus, Hewlett Packard, and Lenovo announced Arm-based notebooks running Windows 10 on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon SoC. To date, Qualcomm has been the leading proponent of such designs.With its Cortex-A76, Arm removed performance bottlenecks and optimized features across its mobile core architecture. Click to enlarge. Images: Arm.With its focus on small, low-power cores, Arm will get more benefit from next-generation process technologies than rival Intel, traditionally focused on driving up data rates. Arm claims that the latest 7-nm nodes will only deliver 2% to 3% more speed than the 16-nm node.“There hasn’t been much frequency benefit at all since 16 nm … wire speed hasn’t scaled for some time,” said Peter Greenhalgh, an Arm fellow and vice president of technology.In graphics, the new Mali G76 is the latest high-end implementation of Arm’s Bifrost GPU architecture. It delivers at 7 nm an estimated 50% overall improvement compared to the existing G72 made in a 10-nm process.The G76 can be configured with up to 20 shader cores and an L2 cache configurable from 512 Kbytes to 4 Mbytes. Each shader sports three execution engines.Arm enhanced both the A76 CPU and G76 GPU for machine-learning tasks even though it is about to roll out its first AI-specific cores. The shotgun approach stems in part from Arm’s belief that it’s still early days for what’s likely to be a wide diversity of AI applications needing a variety of implementations.Deep-learning tasks will run four times faster on the A76 and 2.7 times faster on the G76 compared to existing Arm cores. “We are enabling machine learning on everything … as the size of workloads grows, people will move some jobs to GPUs and CPUs for inline work,” said Alex Chalfin, a senior principal graphics architect for Arm.In video, the Mali-V76 improves 4K performance and, running at 800 MHz, can decode a single 8K video stream at 60 frames/second. A next-generation design will support 8K60 encode.The 8K support is initially geared for VR headsets displaying 4K video to each eye. 8K content is not expected to be generally available until 2020, when Japan streams the Summer Olympics in the format.Overall, Arm expects that the A76 will deliver a 35% performance boost over the existing A72 core. Click to enlarge.Overall, “each new core offers significant upgrades for premium smartphones … and Arm’s Dynamiq architecture makes it easier to drop one or two Cortex-A76s into a cluster with the little A55 cores to boost performance in mid-range phones as well,” said Mike Demler, analyst for the Linley Group.“As for the VPU, Arm doesn’t have a display processor core yet to deliver 8K output, but I think there won’t be much of a market for that for a few more years,” he added.Test chips have been taped out for all of the new cores using RTL that Arm shipped about a year ago. Production silicon from SoC customers is eventually expected to span 12-, 7-, and 5-nm nodes.
2018-06-01 00:00 reading:401
ARM plc Monday (May 29) announced its two new application processor cores, the high-end Cortex-A75 and the mid-range Cortex-A55, as part of an ambitious goal to accelerate AI adoption and get an ARM processor core into every IoT device by 2035. The Cortex-A75 offers performance increases versus previous generations, while the Cortex-A55 delivers both performance and efficiency increases. Both cores come with a level of configurability which makes them suitable for all the Cortex-A family’s markets, in contrast to previous cores which have been optimized for specific applications (for example, the A73 for mobile applications or the A72 for servers). Both cores are based on ARM’s brand new DynamIQ technology, which the company is heralding as a way to redefine multi-core processing. “DynamIQ is a fundamental change to the way we build Cortex-A clusters,” said John Ronco, vice president of marketing for the CPU Group at ARM. “There can now be 8 CPU cores in a cluster that are totally different [to each other], different micro-architectures, different implementations, they can run on different voltage domains, at different frequencies... a lot more flexibility has been introduced.” ARM’s DynamIQ technology is a new way of building multi-core application processors.  (Source: ARM) Previously, with ARM’s big.LITTLE scheme, larger cores could be used alongside smaller cores to allow the smaller ones to be used whenever possible to save power. However, there were limitations: only two sizes of core could be used, and they had to be in separate clusters. They also had to have the same setup for power consumption and performance. DynamIQ allows a more mix-and-match approach, with heterogeneous core types in the same cluster, that can be configured or optimized differently. It also includes an upgraded memory subsystem to deal with data flowing between the different cores, and a new specific instruction set for AI tasks. Ronco gave the example of mid-range CPUs in the mobile arena that may previously have used identical cores, such as eight Cortex-A53s -- these setups will likely transition to one big core with seven littles (ie, an A75 plus seven A55s). While this would involve a minor increase in area, it would allow almost double the single thread performance, useful for app start time and other user experience criteria that make a big difference to smartphone applications. While ARM expects the new cores to be used in a wide variety of applications, a key market for DynamIQ-based CPUs is machine learning. The company’s aim is to accelerate AI adoption by improving core performance by a factor of 50 in the next 3-5 years, based on architecture evolution, new micro-architecture features and software optimizations. The Cortex-A55’s performance compared to its predecessor, the A53. All comparisons at ISO process and frequency.  (Source: ARM) “There is lots of innovation going on in machine learning, but it is not a one size fits all problem,” said Ronco. “There will be lots of types of machine learning, and lots of different solutions. For a whole range of workloads, running them on the CPU is going to make sense, particularly for inference at the edge. What we’ve done with DynamIQ is really pushing forward what can be achieved from a machine learning point of view.”
2017-06-05 00:00 reading:421
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