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MIPS skips Release 4 amid bidding war

Posted: 10 Dec 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Release 3? Release 5? multi-threading? DSP? bidding war?

Amidst a brewing bidding war between Imagination Technologies and CEVA, MIPS Technologies recently rolled out Release 5, which includes virtualisation and SIMD extensions to its base architecture. Release 5 comes, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, directly after Release 3. (see Ceva bids against Imagination Tech, offers $75 mil for MIPS)

"Release 3 was what Aptiv was based on," said Mark Throndson, director of product marketing at MIPS. "4 is considered unlucky in our largest customer base in the Asia Pacific Rim," he said. "That's all across China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea so we chose for marketing reasons not to focus on that number for this release."

Throndson also acknowledged that "neither SIMD nor virtualisation is a novel concept," but stressed that Release 5 provides more computational capability with SIMD and enhanced security features with multiple OS support with virtualisation.

Release 5

MIPS Release 5 architecture

Separating the latest release from MIPS from others are: "scalable virtualisation" across applications from microcontrollers to servers, and "a true RISC implementation" that makes the core extensible, Throndson noted. "Our team made sure to keep our RISC implementation simple and true to its RISC heritage."

Release 5 also includes enhanced virtual addressing designed for more flexible definition of virtual address spaces and functions such as multi-threading and DSP. The extensions are "completely compatible" with MIPS 32 and MIPS 64 and microMIPS, according to the company.

MIPS Release 5 "will likely be the final architectural update from an independent MIPS," noted J. Scott Gardner, a senior analyst with The Linley Group.

Release 5 also adds support for virtualisation and vector processing, and "the MIPS architecture seems to have filled out its feature set to support existing customers for the next several years, whether in network equipment applications, digital home or mobile computing," Gardner said. Since Imagination and CEVA the current bidders for MIPS, are both CPU IP companies, he added, "the MIPS team will need to support existing customers and continue to update the architecture" regardless of which company acquired MIPS.

Throndson said the impetus behind Release r5 included "security challenges for Internet-connected consumer devices [and] flexibility and programmable solutions" increasingly required for devices used in the digital living room.

MIPS believes its virtualisation module is critical to enhancing security features and supporting multiple operating systems. Across the home entertainment and mobile markets, Throndson said vendors are looking for hardware virtualisation as more set-top boxes are connected to the Internet, as users access cloud services that require secure ID protection and as mobile payments increase.

Security needs are also increasing in embedded applications such as smart meters. The company also noted that "virtualisation is also important in the enterprise, where it allows multiple operating systems and applications to run in parallel and enables workload consolidation."

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