In the early days of digital electronics a good architectural idea could be implemented and the advantage it granted could be expected to apply for all foreseeable manufacturing generations.
But now the complexity and pace of change of chip manufacturing is such that ideas and techniques sometimes struggle to last without significant re-invention.
“Big-little” is the idea, from processor licensor ARM Holdings plc of pairing a performance-optimized processor core with a low-power standby-optimized processor core. It enables application software to switch between the cores for an overall energy saving in typical use where equipment spends much of its time in standby mode.
ARM has prepared two processors cores, the Cortex-A15 and the Cortex-A7, to help implement the strategy and the idea is starting to come through in commercial products. Two examples are the Exynos 5 Octa applications processor from Samsung and the MP6530 from Renesas Mobile.
But can big-little last and, if not, how must it be re-invented?
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