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What is an Advanced RISC Machine?

Rohan Timalsina

September 13, 2019 - TuxCare expert team

What Is an Advanced RISC Machine?

Advanced RISC Machine is an older name for the modern-day ARM processor, which represents the leading form of RISC architecture. RISC stands for reduced instruction set computer and refers to a type of microprocessor architecture that optimizes performance by limiting the number of cycles per instruction within its CPU programs.

This blog post will discuss the concept of an advanced RISC machine, RISC architecture benefits, and the use of advanced RISC machines in embedded systems.

History of Advanced RISC Machine (ARM)

The profusion of interlinked names has an interesting history. Today, ARM Holdings – owned by the behemoth SoftBank Group, via their Vision Fund – are the global leader in microprocessor and graphics processing unit (GPU) design. But ARM started out in the late seventies as a now-defunct British company called Acorn, which developed a pioneering RISC computer. On April 26, 1985, following six years of design effort, the first prototype of the ARM processor was delivered by a team led by Sophie Wilson and Steve Furber.

It is called Acorn RISC Machine 1 (ARM1) which was the simplest RISC processor during that period. This accomplishment set up the foundation for one of the most popular processor architectures in history. The Acorn RISC was used in the Acorn Archimedes, a 32-bit early home computer whose name might trigger nostalgia in older readers.

In the nineties, after incorporation, the company replaced “Acorn” with “Advanced” and the processor became known as an Advanced RISC Machine. In 1998, after the company’s IPO, its name became simply “ARM Holdings”, or “ARM” for short. The name of the architecture/processor followed suit, changing its name once again to simply “ARM.”

Benefits of RISC Architecture

A CPU runs a set of programs, each of whose complexity depends on the set of instructions comprising that program, and also the number of cycles per instruction. There are two approaches to improving CPU performance.

  • Reducing the number of instructions per program
  • Reducing the number of cycles per instruction

A complex instruction set computing (CISC) architecture takes the former route and tries to reduce the number of instructions per program. This architecture bundles instructions together, which is more work for the hardware, but less work for the RAM.

On the other hand, processors with a Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC) architecture optimize performance by minimizing the number of cycles per instruction. A single instruction only takes a single CPU cycle. Operations are only performed on registers, never directly on the memory.

RISC processors simplify instruction execution by employing a streamlined set of instructions that can be executed in a single clock cycle. This design philosophy results in faster performance, reduced power consumption, and increased efficiency compared to CISC architectures.

With RISC, compilers have to spend more time breaking down complex instructions into single units. This can be a lot of work.

However, the decoding process itself is minimal. And here’s the crux: In a chip, transistors are required to decode instructions. So with a RISC architecture, you use far fewer transistors than with a CISC architecture.

RISC = Perfect for Embedded Systems

Having fewer transistors means having a smaller build. And it means reduced costs, lower power consumption, and lower heat dissipation. These properties make the RISC architecture perfect for chips used in embedded systems, which require lightweight, portable, and battery-powered devices, such as smartphones and laptops.

These days, the term “advanced RISC machine” is essentially synonymous with an ARM processor. The ARM instruction set architecture stands as the leading form of RISC architecture worldwide, with over 100 billion ARM processors in circulation. ARM (the company) licenses its processors to various companies that utilize them in systems-on-chips (SoCs) and systems-on-modules (SoMs). These companies also design cores that implement the ARM instruction set.

The ARM architecture stands as the most preferred option for embedded mobile devices like Android, Chrome OS, Firefox OS, and Windows Mobile. Since 2012, the architecture has been supported by several Linux distributions, such as Debian, Gentoo, Ubuntu, and Raspberry Pi OS.

The ARM64 (AArch64) architectural upgrades have also arrived for the Linux kernel 6.3 version. One notable highlight of the ARM64 changes in Linux 6.3 is the introduction of kernel-side support for Scalable Matrix Extension 2 (SME 2). This update encompasses both SME 2 and SME 2.1 support, bringing enhancements to the kernel.

What is the Purpose of Advanced RISC Machine?

The primary aim of an Advanced RISC Machine (ARM) is to offer an architecture and instruction set that prioritizes energy efficiency, high performance, and affordability. ARM processor encompasses a family of reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architectures, which find extensive usage in various electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, embedded systems, and more.

ARM processors are specifically well suited for battery-powered devices. Thanks to their lower power consumption and lower heat generation, which makes ARM processors an ideal choice for such devices, contributing to extended battery life and enhanced user experiences. This is achieved by utilizing a streamlined instruction set that requires fewer clock cycles for executing instructions, thereby reducing power consumption while enhancing performance.

ARM has an impact on many different industries. From mobile devices to automotive systems, IoT devices to data centers, the use of advanced RISC machines continues to grow and power the technologies that shape our lives. In order to connect billions of devices and enable smooth communication between them, ARM’s architecture offers a strong basis.

IoT Devices also Need Live Kernel Patching

Renowned for their energy efficiency and performance, ARM processors power billions of devices globally. Nevertheless, similar to any other technology, they are not immune to vulnerabilities.

Mirai botnet is one of the popular examples of IoT security threats. Initially observed in 2016, this botnet has since been associated with numerous prominent cyberattacks, notably the 2016 Dyn cyberattack that resulted in significant disruptions to various websites.

In February 2023, a new variant of the Mirai botnet, “Mirai v3g4”, was found targeting 13 unpatched vulnerabilities in Internet of Things (IoT) devices. This shows the need for live kernel patching for IoT devices.

As the use of ARM devices continues to grow, it is imperative to prioritize vulnerability patching to maintain robust security. With KernelCare IoT, you can effortlessly maintain the security of your organization’s Linux-based Enterprise Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem by staying up to date with the latest security patches.

KernelCare IoT solution seamlessly applies the most recent vulnerability patches while the connected devices are in operation. This enables organizations to automate patch deployment across their entire IoT ecosystems, eliminating the need to schedule downtime or reboot individual devices.

Final Words

In the field of computing, the Advanced RISC Machine (ARM) architecture has proven to be revolutionary. The constant pursuit of efficiency and performance by ARM will undoubtedly have a lasting impression on the technology industry for many years to come.

By quickly applying patches and updates, you fortify your devices against potential exploits, malware attacks, and unauthorized access. Additionally, patching enhances device performance, protects personal data, and ensures compliance with industry standards.

Looking to automate vulnerability patching without kernel reboots, system downtime, or scheduled maintenance windows?

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