October 2011: the saccharine sounds of Maroon 5's prosaic pop piece "Moves Like Jagger" dominate the airwaves; "Gangnam Style" is still over half a year in the future, and TikTok won't be here for another half decade, so there'd be no easy way to share yourself dancing to it anyway. 2011 might not seem like a long time ago, but in computing terms, it might as well have been the dark ages. Google Brain had just started work on DistBelief, the deep learning software that would eventually become TensorFlow. The Internet of Things is starting to develop a buzz, but the things in question mostly ship with a default password of
password, if their developers even thought about security at all. We've come a long way in the past decade, but Arm has their sites fixed squarely on the next decade to come.
Fast forward to 2021, and the keywords are artificial intelligence, the cloud, and security. Arm's new Armv9 architecture directly enhances all of these and more thanks to what might sound like a paradoxical focus on specialized computing. Focusing first on security, Arm build on their hardware-enforced TrustZone technology with the new Confidential Compute Architecture (CCA), which provides an impenetrable firewall between apps running on the same OS, as well as ensuring the safety of data in transit from Arm-based server to Arm-based handheld.
Arm CPU and NPU (neural processing unit) devices are already replacing cloud-based AI infrastructure with low-power Edge compute, but enhancements to Matrix Multiplication (a key operation for machine learning) and new Advanced SIMD instructions and Scalable Vector Extension 2 (SVE2) technology boost not only ML but also DSP, VR and AR compute performance.
At the other end of the spectrum, Arm broadens established footholds in the cloud through partnerships with Amazon (AWS Graviton processors are built using Arm Neoverse cores), Microsoft (Azure Edge), VMware, Ampere, and more, while aforementioned SVE enhancements continue to push the HPC (high-performance computing) envelope.
It's hard to imagine what the next 10 years might look like — Maroon 5's lead singer Adam Levine will be in his 50s — will he still have moves like Jagger? Or will then-octogenarian Mick outlast his preening pop protege? We don't know, but we have a pretty good vision of the new Armv9 decade.