RBS analyst Didier Scemama this morning writes that ARM Holdings (ARMH) and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) appear to be strengthening their relationship, given that both companies gave talks about AMD’s “Fusion” chip architecture at the recent “Fusion11″ conference, discussing the ability for other chip makers to combine AMD’s CPU designs with ARM CPU designs and “graphics processing unit,” or GPU, designs.
The mixing and matching of CPUs and GPUs has broad implications, Scemama writes:
The chaining of CPU’s and GPU’s together from different vendors opens up the world of heterogeneous computing. Heterogeneous computing allows computers and servers to run software tasks across different types of CPUs and GPUs. Effectively the software is indifferent to the underlying hardware (i.e. could be x86-based or ARM-based).
AMD’s contribution, notes Scemama, is a proposal for a “virtual CPU bus” to link all those cores together when using the x86 instruction set.
All that’s very theoretical, Scemama points out. What’s more interesting is that AMD is perhaps looking to combine its GPU with ARM’s CPU cores, the way Nvidia (NVDA) has done. And the thinks that suggests some new license business for ARM with AMD:
Given the 10-20% market share of AMD in PCs (more skewed towards desktop PCs and servers than notebooks) and the momentum ARM has got in PCs, post the Windows on ARM announcement by Microsoft, we believe it would make sense for AMD to contemplate licensing ARM IP to combine it with its own GPU and CPU IP. Given ARM’s strength in low power and AMD’s relative weakness in tablets, netbooks and notebooks, it seems reasonable to us that AMD would benefit from licensing ARM IP to grow their market share in these segments of the market. Similarly ARM would benefit from a closer collaboration with AMD to penetrate the server market given AMD’s relative strength in high performance PC systems, in our view. While the ARM/AMD relationship is still in the early phase we think this open architecture initiative is positive for ARM and potentially Imagination Technologies Group