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PCI-X controller is cost-effective COTS board

Posted: 02 Feb 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Alex Mendelsohn? PCI? PCI-X? Interface Concept? IC-e6-cPCIa?

64-bit PCI or PCI-X controller

The 64-bit PCI or PCI-X controller of Interface Concept's new power-managed IC-e6-cPCIa board permits it to receive a PCI Mezzanine card (PMC) board that's compliant with PCI 2.2 or PCI-X. The IC-e6-cPCIa can also run as host or peripheral board, with its boot software configuring its PCI bridge automatically.

An IC-e6-cPCIa can be used with almost any RTOS and Linux. The board is available in standard and extended temperature range models, and in conduction-cooled configurations.

This IC-e6-cPCIa SBC uses Freescale's MPC7447A or MPC7448 processors that are software-compatible with the Freescale MPC7xx family. The high-speed MPC7447A or MPC7448 PowerPC e600 cores are capable of issuing four instructions/clock-cycle into eleven independent execution units.

Scalable upgrade path
The architecture provides four integer units, one double-precision FPU (floating-point unit), four Motorola Altivec units, and load/store and branch processing units. This 7474A core can dish up 2,310 Dhrystone 2.1 MIPS (millions of instructions/s) clocking at 1GHz. The MPC7448 can deliver 3,230 Dhrystone 2.1MIPS at 1.4GHz.

Note that upcoming e600 cores will scale beyond 2GHz and will support multi-processing. The IC-e6-PMCa board promises a discernible upgrade path.

The Freescale silicon imparts the board with other virtues, too. Thanks to its so-called Dynamic Frequency Switching, the core's clock frequency can be changed on-the-fly to reduce dissipation. Altering processor clocking dynamically is done based on temperature data fed from a sensing diode on the CPU's die.

Marvell chipset
The IC-e6-cPCIa also implements a Marvell Technology Group Discovery III chipset. This controller supports fast data streaming, improves read memory latency, and boosts cache coherency.

You also get 2Mb of burst SRAM, XOR DMA (direct memory access) that's useful for RAID and SCSI, and four IDMA (internal DMA) engines.

The board also gives you many communications hooks. There are Gbit Ethernet channels, and two multi-purpose serial controllers. You also get a high-speed USB controller combined with a hub function that supports two ports.

System firmware
As Interface Concept's press release notes, the system's firmware is stored in upgradeable flash. Two versions are available. One is the UBOOT basic software mentioned in the press statement.

IC_Boot is called by a re-set vector when the board is powered up. It initializes the PowerPC and the Discovery controller, performs a set of POSTs (power-on self-test), and brings up a module called IC_BIOS.

The IC_Bios module lets you access specific IC-e6-cPCIa hardware resources using an API (application programming interface). A set of sixty functions is provided.

IC_Tools is a firmware monitor that supports loading files from Ethernet, running files in RAM, or putting them in flash. IC_Tools also lets you display or modify RAM.

Board support packages
BNSP (board support packages) are also supplied by Interface Concept. The company provides BSPs for Wind River VxWorks and Linux. Other RTOSs, such as LynxOS or Integrity can also be ported; Interface Concept will assist you with that.

The BSPs are based on a standard distribution of the operating system editor. The BSPs handle initialization, interrupt handling and generation, hardware clock and timer services, and memory management. They also support PCI management, mapping of memory spaces, and handling of serial ports. The BSPs include a MAC (media access controller) driver for the board's Gbit Ethernet ports.

Interface Concept also offers a JTAG debug kit for the IC-e6-cPCIa. You can also order a rear transition module that puts two RJ-45 connectors, two USB connectors, one RS-232 port, and one high-density connector for PMC I/O on the rear panel.

- Alex Mendelsohn

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