FREMONT, Calif. -- In a move to promote a new type of embedded memory for Internet IC applications, Virage Logic Corp. today announced the industry's first compiler for on-chip content addressable memories (CAMs) that support hardware-based search engine functions.
Virage said its new NetCAM compiler generates high-speed ternary content addressable memory blocks, which are tailored for networking applications, such as routers and switches. About 59% of the $300 million stand-alone CAM market could be served by embedded CAM functions, according to the Fremont company.
Embedded CAM blocks can be used by routers and switches to quickly examine incoming packets of information and forward them to other systems in the network in a few nanoseconds. Virage believes integrated CAM chips will enable hardware-based search engines to speed the routing of e-mail, set quality of services for different Internet users, and handle other functions that are often implemented in slow, software-based lookup tables.
A key feature in the embedded ternary CAM is the ability to handle "don't care" conditions, which are often difficult to implement in software-based search engines, said Krishna Balachandran, director of product marketing at Virage. "When e-mail is going out to a number of people, all that matters is the first half the address. There is no need to examine the entire address," he said. The ternary CAM stores data as zeros, ones and "don't care."
The embedded CAM is about five times faster than stand alone content addressable memories, according to Virage. The NetCAM memory blocks will store 512 entries of 64-bits each. (This is enough for 512 Internet addresses, for example.) The memory can be set to control the granularity of searches. A total of 165 million searches can be executed in one second, Balachandran said.
"This is the first embedded CAM compliler. It means designers can now efficiently and rapidly integrate content addressable memories into their IC designs," he said. Virage is also offering customized designs with tailored logic block to reduce power and die area for certain applications.
Currently, the standard NetCAM compiler is available for 0.18-micron processes from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC). Virage plans to also offer binary CAMs for pattern recognition and multi-media compression, in addition to larger ternary CAMs. The larger ternary CAMs for database search engines will become available next year, Balachandran said.
Virage is also expecting to offer a collection of logic blocks for part-matched CAM-based system solutions. These will be identified as Virage works with customers on application-specific designs in the initial phase of the NetCAM compiler.
For customer-owned tooling (COT) designs and standard foundry processes, the NetCAM compiler will be available for $750,000 for a single, node-locked license. The compiler can be purchased for a single-instance CAM design for $200,000. A 12% foundry maintenance fee is also charged.
Pricing for designs implemented with ASIC tools or EDA software inside integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) is set at $1.5 million for a single, node-locked compiler license. (The price is higher to cover non-reoccurring engineering costs in the setup of the compiler for ASIC tools and IDM systems.) A 20% foundry maintenance fee is also charged.