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AMD, ARM form new TrustZone security partnership

One of the two major makers of x86 processors has gone over to ARM, at least a little bit. Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) on Wednesday announced that it is partnering with ARM to build a platform security processor using ARM's Cortex-A5 TrustZone technology.

The two companies said the future chip would work towards "aligning both AMD x86- and ARM-based hardware with an industry standard security solution that spans multiple processor architectures and helps accelerate broader ecosystem support."

"With AMD's support for, and inclusion in, the expanding TrustZone ecosystem, consumers and businesses can rest assured their data and content are secured by an industry-standard security solution that spans a multitude of devices and operating systems," Mike Wolfe, AMD senior vice president and chief information officer, said in a statement.

"This example of AMD's ambidextrous strategy, which leverages our history of x86 and graphics innovation while also embracing other technologies and intellectual property, will help drive a more secure computing experience for our consumer and businesses customers," he added.

AMD and ARM have been hinting at closer collaboration for about a year. Though AMD, like its larger rival Intel, is mainly known for making x86-based CPUs that directly or indirectly compete with chips based on the ARM architecture that have made a huge splash in the mobile device space, the two companies have been quite chummy in recent months.

Now AMD has confirmed that it will be using an ARM license to develop the future platform security processor, leaving its larger rival Intel as the lone x86-only shop for PC and mobile device processors (Intel does manufacture non-x86 Itanium processors for high-end servers and HPC systems but has so far avoided ARM like the plague).

AMD said it will integrate ARM's TrustZone technology into its future Accelerated Processing Units, or APUs, the relatively new lineup of products from the company that combine the capabilities of central processors and graphics processors on a single chip. ARM and AMD will also collaborate on AMD-developed TrustZone-based platforms for ARM-based CPUs and other x86 processor platforms, the companies said.

Select AMD APUs will feature TrustZone security features in 2013 and the chip maker said it would expand the technology further across its product portfolio in 2014.

"As technology becomes more important to our everyday lives, security needs to be present in every single device. Through this technology partnership with AMD, and the broadening of the ARM TrustZone technology ecosystem, we're making another important step towards a solution," said Ian Drew, executive vice president of strategy for ARM.

Earlier this week, AMD and ARM joined several other semiconductor companies in forming the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) Foundation, a new non-profit consortium that seeks to "define and promote an open, standards-based approach to heterogeneous computing."