Last week IBM and ARM Holdings Plc quietly announced a continuation of their collaboration on advanced process technology, this time with a stated goal of developing ARM IP optimized for IBM physical processes down to a future 14 nm size. The two companies have been collaborating on semiconductors and SOC design since 2007, and this extension has several important ramifications for both companies and their competitors.
It is a clear indication that IBM retains a major interest in low-power and mobile computing, despite its previous divestment of its desktop and laptop computers to Lenovo, and that it will be in a position to harvest this technology, particularly ARM's modular approach to composing SOC systems, for future productization.
For ARM, the implications are clear. Its latest announced product, the Cortex A15, which will probably appear in system-level products in approximately 2013, will be initially produced in 32 nm with a roadmap to 20nm. The existence of a roadmap to a potential 14 nm product serves notice that the new ARM architecture will have a process roadmap that will keep it on Intel’s heels for another decade. ARM has parallel alliances with TSMC and Samsung as well, and there is no reason to think that these will not be extended, but the IBM alliance is an additional insurance policy. As well as a source of semiconductor technology, IBM has a deep well of systems and CPU IP that certainly cannot hurt ARM.
When I started as an architect, I was part of the team called “IT Architecture.” It was clear what we did and who we did it for – we standardized technology and designs so that IT would be more reliable, deliver business solutions more quickly, and cost less. We were an IT-centric function. Then the term “Enterprise Architecture” came in – and spurred debates as to “isn’t EA about the business?,” “what’s the right scope for EA?,” and “should EA report to the CEO?” We debated it, published books and blogs about it – but it didn’t change what most architects did; they did some flavor of IT Architecture.
Meanwhile, the interplay of business and technology changed . . . Technology became embedded and central to business results, and business leaders became technology advocates. The locus of technology innovation moved from the “heavy lifting” of core system implementations to the edges of the business, where business staff see opportunities and demand more autonomy to seize them. For enterprise architects, this means that regardless of what EA has been, in the future it must become a business-focused and embedded discipline. Mapping this shift is a key theme of Forrester’s Enterprise Architecture Forum 2011.
Gene Leganza, who will be presenting the opening keynote “EA In The Year 2020: Strategic Nexus Or Oblivion?,” states it this way: