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Zilog breaks into 32bit market with Zatara SoC

Posted: 21 Sep 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:embedded flash? MCU? microprocessors?

Zilog has completed its catch-up strategy for embedded flash.

Until now the MCU company has focused on competing in the 8- and 16bit markets. Now the company, with a new CEO at its helm, is focusing on newly developed 32bit ARM-secured transaction products for POS applications.

"The 32bit embedded market is growing quickly at a five-year compound average growth rate of 21.6 percent," said president and CEO Darin Billerbeck.

"One key area of growth is high-end applications requiring intensive encryption technology. We have an opportunity to leverage 32bit ARM-integrated technologies into adjacent markets as well," said Billerbeck.

32bit solution
At the Embedded Systems Conference in Boston this week, Billerbeck and VP of marketing Keith Bladen, will be touting their Zatara 32bit SoC as the solution for high-end applications requiring encryption.

The launch of the company's first 32bit family of application-specific standard products follows more than 14 months of collaboration with partners and customers to achieve greater security and performance for next-generation secure transaction applications such as global electronic funds transfer (EFT) POS payment systems.

"Our customers have embraced the Zatara ASSP, which has been shipping in volume production since June," Billerbeck said.

"The Zatara SoC offers key advantages over the conventional two-chip solutions that use a general processor and a secondary security co-processor," said Michelle Leyden Li, director of product marketing at Zilog. Zilog's main competitor is Atmel, whose single-chip solution has been announced but has yet to ship, according to Billerbeck.

"Threats of fraud and security breaches go beyond simply POS financial transactions, but also include other payment devices such as ATMs, unmanned kiosks and vending machines as well as other mobile and stationary applications," Billerbeck noted.

Citing industry sources, Billerbeck said that in a single 33-month period, over 87 million credit cards were compromised, representing billions of dollars in stolen merchandise and lost revenue. "The need to ensure that these transactions are safe and secure has become critical," he said. "Zilog's Zatara Series ARM ASSP was built from the ground up to deliver the highest level of security and safety to protect the integrity of EFT POS transactions."

Performance factors
Besides convincing ESC attendees of Zatara's claims, the Zilog executives will make their case at Cartes, the reference event in digital security and smart card technologies to be held Nov. 13-15 at Paris-Nord Villepinte.

"We have been shipping production units of 32bit ARM-based products for secured transactions since June," said Billerbeck. "It's all part of our ticktock approach to enhancing our product line in increments and then offering a new core, enhancing the product line again and then offering another core."

"This is the first 32bit solution in the POS space with a 180MHz performance. Our next re-spin of the product will decrease the cost of the solution by 40 percent to the customer."

Bladen said Zilog is pursuing similar strategies espoused by Intel in microprocessors and Apple in the systems areas. "Those two companies get it right in the ticktock strategy of enhancing the same products before launching another major new line," he said.

Zatara's key features include the 180MHz ARM9 Core with a security subsystem comprising a NIST800-22 compliant random number generator and FIPS-140-2-compliant SHA-1 hash generator. It has an embedded secure boot ROM, 64Kbytes of embedded zero wait-state SRAM and 4Kbytes of embedded secure SRAM. It also has a magnetic card reader and a Smartcard reader on board, an LCD controller and power management circuits.

Development tool support for the Zatara ASSP includes a reference design board and a wide array of third-party support and tools.

Zilog has had a checkered history since becoming a leader in microprocessor designs soon after its founding in 1974. The company won international acclaim for designing one of the first architectures in the microprocessors and MCUs industry, the well-received Z80. Today Zilog, with 530 employees, designs, develops and markets a broad portfolio of devices for embedded control and communication applications used in consumer electronics, home appliances, security systems, POS terminals, personal computer peripherals and industrial and automotive applications.

Zilog recently opened a new headquarters in San Jose, California in the U.S. As part of his razor-focused approach, Billerbeck was instrumental earlier this year in consolidating engineering activities into the San Jose, California and Meridian, Idaho, design centers, with the resulting closure in April 2007 of the Seattle and Shanghai, China, design and development facilities. It continues to maintain a design center in Bangalore, India, and a test operation in Manila, Philippines.

- Nicolas Mokhoff
EE Times

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