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AMCC fields dual-core PowerPC for high-end apps

Posted: 16 Jul 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:dual-core PowerPC processor? multiclocking NMOS transistor? quad-core? high-end embedded markets?

Applied Micro Circuits Corp. (AMCC) has introduced a PowerPC core that it hopes can drive the company into high-end embedded markets. The 90nm Titan is a dual-core processor that hits 2GHz in bulk CMOS to deliver 8,000 Dhrystone MIPS.

"AMCC has not participated in the high end because their parts have typically had data rates below 1GHz," said Linley Gwennap, principal of The Linley Group. "It will be difficult with embedded Power CPU provider Freescale Semiconductor Inc. as an incumbent and startup P.A. Semi Inc. out there, too, but it is all incremental business for them."

AMCC hopes that its device offers higher performance than Freescale's competing 90nm e500, which tops out at 1.5GHz. Titan could potentially offer lower cost than P.A. Semi's device, which also hits 2GHz, but requires a 65nm process technology.

In terms of power, one of the Titan cores dissipates just an average of 2.5W, compared with as much as 3.5W per core for the P.A. Semi cores and 3-5W for the single-core Freescale CPU. AMCC designed the processor to fit into an overall 15W SoC device. That's about the same power consumption as P.A. Semi's highly integrated dual-core chip. "We worked out our power budget from the system requirements on down," said Dan Bouvier, former PowerPC architect at Motorola Inc. and now chief solutions architect at AMCC.

Key to the design is a multiclocking NMOS transistor architecture licensed from Intrinsity Inc. Intrinsity and AMCC first announced an intent to collaborate on PowerPC design in March 2006. Intrinsity's so-called Fast14 technology helps Titan eliminate latches, reducing 10 to 20 logic levels down to as few as four. That means that the AMCC device can get as much work done in its eight- to nine-stage pipeline as P.A. Semi does in its 14-stage CPU, Bouvier said.

Analyst Gwennap called AMCC's device the "first major deployment" of Intrinsity's Fast14. "It's a big feature and a unique aspect of what AMCC is doing," he said. "The key question for AMCC is what they will wrap around this new core."

Building product portfolio
Next year, AMCC plans to launch two products using the core and aimed at telecom control-plane applications, said Sam Fuller, VP of marketing for AMCC. The company currently has about 16 different versions of PowerPC processors in its portfolio based on core designs acquired from IBM Corp. in May 2004.

The use of a standard Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd 90nm process for the core makes it easier to wrap a wealth of AMCC and third-party IP around the core for the company's diverse markets, which span telecom, storage and home-gateway products.

AMCC will eventually roll out chips using single- and quad-core versions of the Titan processor, said Fuller. That parallels the road map for P.A. Semi.

Gwennap noted that AMCC has an edge over P.A. Semi because AMCC has a wide library of its own IP cores in areas including network processing, security and high-speed interconnect. In addition, AMCC has an established base of customers in the embedded Power space.

- Rick Merritt and Loring Wirbel
EE Times

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