Having delivered seminal designs for the ARM and MIPS cores, Dan Dobberpuhl is going for the hat trick.
With its PWRficient family of two- to eight-core general-purpose CPUs, Dobberpuhl's startup, P.A. Semi, aims to tap the PowerPC architecture to deliver the highest performance per watt for everything from game consoles to supercomputers. The first part, due to sample next summer, will deliver two 2-GHz cores at about 5 W on a 65-nanometer process.
Although rival chips support up to 32 threads, P.A.'s single-threaded parts are adequately equipped, said Microprocessor Report editor-in-chief Kevin Krewell. He called the devices' performance per watt "pretty cutting-edge."
Seven variants are planned in three socket types, most arriving in 2007 and 2008. With Linux and real-time OS ports in the works, P.A. Semi is targeting high-end servers, storage, networking, telecom and, eventually, consumer.
P.A. Semi may have been caught flat-footed, however, by Apple's recent shift from the PowerPC to the X86, and by the fact that MIPS-based multicore designs from startups such as Raza Microelectronics and Cavium Networks have captured designers' imaginations at Cisco Systems. "That may have changed their prospects," said Krewell.
But Dobberpuhl argues that the PowerPC has the edge on MIPS in infrastructure and applications breadth, along with the heft of backer IBM. "Three architectures will prevail: X86, ARM and PowerPC," he said.