Intel: Its Raining 64-bit Chips

By Jimmy Gitonga
  Published 04 Jun 2014
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Intel: Its Raining 64-bit Chips

It is written somewhere that Warren Best, the former CEO at ARM said, " For every 6 mobile devices, there is the deployment of 1 Cloud server". There are 2 areas in the coming future that we, as developers in Africa, need to keep an eye on. One is obviously mobile devices which I shall talk more about later. The other is data center technology that affects the Cloud. The Cloud is what we will build on, as the other part of the next big mobile solution.

Let's think about this for a moment. The world currently, has roughly 6.8 billion mobile subscriptions with 2 billion being smart phones. As the demand for the Internet on mobile devices increases, so does the demand for the data centers that provide the Internet and computing power for those devices. However in 2013, smart phones outsold feature phones accounting for 55% of global sales. This means we currently have hundreds of thousands of servers offering data services off the Internet. But mobile data traffic on the Internet is only 13% as off 2013. It was 1% in 2006.

Due to the increase and variety of data traffic needs, not every computing task requires high-power brute force CPUs. The datacenter industry has been looking towards low-power servers. ARM had however been making chips on 32-bit technology until the launch of 64-bit ARMv8 in late 2011. ARM has made inroads with "microservers" which use relatively little power but can be packed densely in datacenters because they run cooler. Companies, like DELL, are making servers out of ARM chips allowing data centres to offer same capabilities with much lower power consumption.

Intel has taken note and is protecting the server business, which it dominates, from the ARM invasion. But the growth area is in mobile devices and the "Internet of things", which ARM currently dominates. Intel's latest architecture is named Silvermont. It is the foundation for the current low-power, high-performance chips coming to market. It is on this that the latest Atom family of "System on Chip" (SoCs) is being built. While most of the noise about the Atom SoCs is about tablets and smart phones, the Intel Atom C2000 SoCs have the "Avoton" range as the introduction of the first 64-bit low-power chip targeting the microserver market. Now Intel has a 64-bit Atom architecture stretching from "Device to Datacenter".

ARM's 64-bit on mobile devices was only on Apple devices running the iOS platform. Intel has shown Windows 8.x tablets and mobiles using 64-bit SoCs. And to join 75% of the current smartphone sales in particular, Intel has worked with Google Android to produce a 64-bit Android 4.4 (Kitkat). Intel says speed performances of 20 - 44% will be witnessed when compared with 32-bit Android processes. If everything goes well, Intel will be in devices developed by Lenovo, ASUS and Foxconn.

What does this mean for developers in Africa? Intel has had a hard time convincing developers to sit and optimise their code for Intel based Android devices with nothing in the African market to aim for. But with the Intel INDE (Intel Integrated Native Developer Experience) and a number of devices coming hopefully to the African market later in 2014, then we have something to look forward to.

I finally installed the Ubuntu Touch on my Galaxy Nexus. For the ones of us who are looking to the Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty Tahr gaining traction, I wonder whether I will get a Intel x86 mobile device with Ubuntu in it. I could build apps for one CPU architecture, one platform, Device to Datacenter.

Oooh, I like that.  
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