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Comms chip prepped for digital home apps

Posted: 01 Mar 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:rick merritt? ee times? digital home? home app? networking?

Network chipmakers see growing opportunities as consumer companies continue to build out pieces of the digital living room. The latest example is Ubicom Inc., which has upgraded its network processor and optimized it for a wide variety of high-speed, low-cost consumer systems.

The company got its start in the mid-1990s working on microcontrollers geared for embedded Internet applications. Now, it has unveiled a 4G part that enhances the multithreaded design of its existing IP3000 chip, which has found homes in Wi-Fi routers, LCD TVs and VoIP phones.

Ubicom hopes the latest version, the Stream Engine 5000, will build on that business by delivering greater throughput per clock cycle. The part sports improvements on the company's architecture, which is aimed at intelligently routing network traffic based on its high-level packet-analysis capabilities.

"The digital home is becoming more complicated than a business IT environment," said Keith Morris, VP of marketing for Ubicom. "There are no boundaries on the kinds of applications people will use, but they won't have an IT person to help them sort out networking problems."

The SE5000 family offers as many as 10 threads, up from eight in the IP3000. That helps it deliver throughput of 150Mbps to 250Mbps at the TCP/IP level and jitter measured at less than 200?s.

The SE5000 brings a handful of high-speed interfaces to the Ubicom architecture. The part now supports a single 1x PCI-Express link, two GbE interfaces and USB 2.0. With the new chip, the company has shifted from a software I/O architecture that "ate up a lot of MIPS" on the processor, Morris said.

Ubicom has also simplified its memory hierarchy to shave system costs and simplify software development while improving overall performance. The part now sports just 192KB of internal memory, down from 384KB, but thanks to new instruction and data caches, throughput is actually boosted.

The SE5000 supports serial flash and up to 2GB of external DDR1 or DDR2 SDRAM.

Analyst Joe Byrne of market watcher Linley Group, called the SE5000 "an innovative processor for networked multimedia" systems. "Unique features such as the direct transfer of data from I/O interfaces to application memory and support for hard real-time threads reduce processing latency and jitter, delivering improved QoS for multimedia traffic," Byrne said in a prepared statement.

The SE5000 is sampling now, with production set to begin before June.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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