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Low-cost 32bit CMOS processor runs at 1.5GHz

Posted: 29 Sep 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:processor? CMOS? silicon-on-insulator?

Aiming to cut down the cost of embedded designs, Applied Micro Circuits Corp. has rolled out a CMOS-based, 32bit processor, built around IBM Corp.'s Power Architecture.

What's different is that the codenamed Gemini processor from AppliedMicro will not be manufactured in a silicon-on-insulator (SOI) process by its long-time foundry partnerIBM. Instead, Gemini will be made using a 90nm, bulk CMOS process from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd, as part of a new and expanded foundry arrangement between the two companies.

The expanded agreement with TSMC signals the first time that AppliedMicro's embedded microprocessors are available beyond complex and costly SOI fabrication processes. SOI is said to provide lower leakage in higher-end designs, but bulk CMOS is less expensive.

Gemini, formally called the AppliedMicro APM 83290, is a 32bit, 1.5GHz embedded processor that is geared for control-plane applications in base stations, gateways and networking equipment, said Paramesh Gopi, president and CEO of AppliedMicro.

Based on a mix of somewhat rival technologiessuch as IBM's Power Architecture and TSMC's 90nm, CMOS technologythe dual-core Gemini is "two times" less expensive than competitive SOI-based devices on the market, Gopi said. "This represents a new cost point" for the embedded processor market, he told EE Times at the company's headquarters.

Foundry shift
It also represents a slight change in strategy for the company. For years, TSMC, and to a lesser degree, UMC, have been making LAN/WAN-based devices on a foundry basis for fabless AppliedMicro.

In 2004, AppliedMicro broaden its portfolio by acquiring the assets of IBM's embedded PowerPC 400 series RISC processors. AMCC paid IBM $227 million in cash for intellectual property licensing and acquisition of affiliated products. As part of the terms, IBM exclusively manufactured the embedded processors for AMCC.

Until now, AppliedMicro had its entire line of Power Architecture embedded processors made on a foundry basis by IBM. Those parts are based on a SOI technology at linewidth geometries down to 90nm. The Power Architecture is IBM's proprietary processor architecture, which has been exclusively made within IBM's fabs.

Gopi insisted that AppliedMicro will continue to sell embedded processors based on SOI. AppliedMicro's Power Architecture processor families have found sockets in wireless access points, cellular basestations and multifunction printers.

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