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Xilinx rolls soft core 32-bit MPU, targets networking

Posted: 01 Jun 2001 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:microblaze? virtex pro? powerpc? fpga?

Xilinx's MicroBlaze 32-bit processor is diligently laying the groundwork for a new multi-processor platform that the company expects to complete when their Virtex Pro PowerPC device ultimately rolls.

At 125MHz, with a 32-bit instruction and data bus, the MicroBlaze soft processor core is fast, said Mark Aaldering, senior director of intellectual-property solutions at Xilinx. It can be implemented as a standalone processor in Spartan II or Virtex FPGAs, he said. But since it consumes 800 lookup tables, the core can also be mixed and matched with additional MicroBlaze processors and peripherals on Virtex devices to create a multiprocessor platform.

The big payoff for Xilinx would come with the release of the Virtex Pro PowerPC core. The company envisions adding MicroBlaze MPU cores and MicroBlaze peripherals to the Virtex Pro PowerPC to create a high-performance, multi-processor platform "better" suited for networking, telecommunication, data communication, embedded and consumer markets, said Babak Hedayati, director of marketing and business development.

Aaldering said the MicroBlaze uses IBM's CoreConnect bus for peripherals-the same bus used for the embedded PowerPC. This, he said, will let Xilinx and other developers create peripherals that work with PowerPC alone, MicroBlaze alone or the two together on a Virtex Pro PowerPC. Xilinx has already delivered arbiter and UART CoreConnect-enabled peripherals to beta partners.

Using a Harvard-style architecture, MicroBlaze has separate 32bit instruction and data buses running at full speed to execute programs or access data from on-chip or external memory, Aaldering said. The processor is implemented in 50 D-Mips using the Dhrystone benchmarks, with a road map to 75 D-Mips by late summer and 100 D-Mips next year.

MicroBlaze and the larger platform concept have won the support of Wind River Systems via that company's WindLink partners program, Aaldering said.

The device is due to reach production in late summer. The MicroBlaze development kit, which includes core, peripherals and a set of GNU-based software tools including compiler, assembler and debugger, will be priced at $495. Variations of the kit will include a Virtex-II development board and FPGA design tools.

? Michael Santarini

EE Times

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