Dries Buytaert

ARM vs x86

Yesterday Mozilla released Firefox 84 with native support for Apple's new M1 chip. The result? Firefox launches over 2.5 times faster and web applications are twice as responsive. Impressive!

These performance improvements are the result of Apple's M1 being an ARM-based processor, rather than the traditional x86-based processors sold by Intel and AMD.

One of my first jobs out of college was to write a Just-In-Time (JIT) compiler for both the ARM and x86 architecture. I experienced first-hand how much more elegant the ARM architecture is. Twenty years later, ARM continues to impress me.

In a different corner of the technology world, Amazon is working on the 3rd generation of its Graviton chip. Graviton processors are custom built by and for Amazon Web Services, and also use an ARM-based core. The Graviton 3 is likely to offer an extreme performance/price benefit compared to any x86 alternative. The Graviton 2 is already 20% faster than x86 instances, so it wouldn't surprise me if the Graviton 3 is 40-80% faster. For many, that justifies the switching cost.

ARM started outclassing the x86 on the desktop and in the server room. End users are starting to notice. None of this bodes well for Intel or AMD. While the x86 still dominates the market, I just don't see how Intel can stop this trend. A few weeks ago, I sold all my Intel stock. Only time will tell if that was the right call, but I'd rather be safe than sorry.

— Dries Buytaert

Dries Buytaert is an Open Source advocate and technology executive. More than 10,000 people are subscribed to his blog. Sign up to have new posts emailed to you or subscribe using RSS.