Intel eyes ARM's big.LITTLE architecture

Posted by Aharon Etengoff



Intel is apparently eyeing ARM's big.LITTLE architecture as a potential paradigm for placing different cores a single x86 die.

"The other kind of heterogeneity we've seen on the ARM side is general purpose processors but smaller, slower ones and larger, more powerful ones and moving the workloads around when there is more stuff to do - that's another area of interest [for Intel]," Rattner said during a Q&A session quoted by the Inq.



"Obviously operating systems must help there. Most operating systems tend to think all the cores are the same, but [they are] not in that case."



Essentially, Big.LITTLE pairs the high horsepower RISC-based Cortex-A15 MPCore with the ultra-efficient Cortex-A7 processor - allowing mobile devices to automatically select the right processor for the right task based on performance requirements.

For example, the 'LITTLE', lowest-power processor - in this case, the Cortex-A7 - runs the Operating System (OS) and apps for basic always-on, always connected tasks, such as social media and audio playback. The OS and apps can then be seamlessly migrated (within 20 microseconds) to the higher-performance processor as demands increase for high end tasks, such as navigation and gaming.



ARM engineer Peter Greenhalgh told TG Daily back in October 2011 that the hardware-based Big.LITTLE is OS agnostic, as it is completely transparent to the application software or middleware running on the processors.

Greenhalgh also confirmed Big.LITTLE processing would initially be deployed on smartphones by various partners, but would likely find its way on to tablets at some point in the future.