big.LITTLE Technology – ARM

Big.LITTLE technology, developed by ARM Holdings in 2011, is a computing architecture known as heterogeneous computing that uses a combination of power-efficient “little” ARM Cortex processors and high-performance “big” ARM Cortex processors for power and computing optimization.  This architecture design is based on the approach of using the “right processor for the right task” since computing tasks can be dynamically allocated to either type of processor based on the performance requirements of the task.  Heavy computing tasks such as gaming and live video streaming can be handled by the “big” processors while the “little” processors can handle lightweight tasks like your weather app or taking a picture with your phone’s camera.

The performance that is required from devices such as smartphones and tablets is outpacing innovations in battery capacity and microprocessors. ARM realized that the opportunity to solve this problem was to look beyond traditional power management and microprocessor technologies.  Research indicated that CPU busts were common during computing tasks and that more often than not, lightweight computing tasks were being handled by processors that were designed for more compute-intensive tasks. By ensuring that the right processor handles the right task at the right time, big.LITTLE technology can help deliver peak performance, lower power consumption  and sustain battery life in mobile devices.

Originally, big.LITTLE architecture was a configuration of four “big” ARM Cortex-A cores and four “little” ARM Cortex-A cores on a single compute cluster.  Since then ARM has made improvements to its big.LITTLE technology with DynamIQ, which allows for more flexible multi-core configurations (1+3 or 1+7) and the addition of accelerators that will support Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.  Clearly, ARM is poised to remain an industry leader in embedded and mobile processors for years to come.

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