SAN JOSE, Calif.--Freescale Semiconductor has designed its first 64-bit Power core and two integrated communications processors using it. Analysts said the parts put Freescale ahead of MIPS-based competitors such as Cavium and NetLogic, but still slightly behind in raw performance Intel's Xeon which is gaining market momentum.
The 64-bit e5500 core can deliver 3.0 Dhrystone Mips per megahertz, runs at up to 2.5 GHz and includes a 512 Kbyte level-two cache. That's up from 2.5 DMips/MHz, 2.5 GHz and 128 Kbyte L2 cache for Freescale's current 32-bit e500 core.
The new core uses a seven stage, out-of-order pipeline and three levels of cache. It supports both 32-bit and 64-bit software and includes an IEEE 754 double-precision floating point unit.
The first two Freescale products to use the core are the single-core QorIQ P5010 and the dual-core P5020 processors, both made in 45nm technology and pin compatible with existing P3 and P4 products.
They are aimed at a wide range of high-end comms systems including routers and storage networking systems.
The P5020 delivers 13,200 DMips at a maximum frequency of 2.2 GHz while consuming 30 Watts. The chips will not sample until late this year and will not be in production until early 2011, but simulation software for them will be available in July.
"If you are looking for single-thread performance, this 2.2 GHz part is better than what's announced from NetLogic or Cavium," said Joe Byrne, a senior analyst at the Linley Group (Mountain View, Calif.). "The latest Intel Xeon's have even more single-thread performance, but Freescale has better integration," he added.
Indeed, Freescale is packing a laundry list of interfaces into the new chips including Serial RapidIO v1.3 and 2.0, serial ATA, PCI Express Gen 2, 10 Gigabit Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet and USB. They also include a RAID 5/6 accelerator for storage systems.
"The key differentiator between us and Intel is not the performance, but what's designed [into the chip] for the comms space which requires a lot more integration beyond just the memory controller," said Lisa Su, general manager of Freescale's networking and multimedia division.
Nevertheless, Intel has momentum in key sectors of the comms market.
"More and more in high-end control plane designs, engineers are looking at Intel processors, so it will be interesting to see if this does anything to dent that momentum," said Byrne. "On the data plane side, a lot of [Freescale's] competition will be with quad- and eight-core processors" from Cavium and NetLogic, he added.
Cavium announced a 32-core processor <a href="http://www.eetimes.com/showArticle.jhtml;?articleID=224701469">in May</a>. NetLogic acquire multicore processor designer RMI Corp. <a href="http://www.eetimes.com/showArticle.jhtml;?articleID=218400244">last year</a>.
Performance and integration will be more important factors to success in this market than the move to 64-bit support, Byrne said.
"There are very few companies that start their decision process saying they need a 64-bit chip," Byrne said. "They start out thinking about what they need in code capability, performance or feature integration, but all architectures need to make this transition eventually as systems get more sophisticated," he said.
The software shift could be straightforward for OEMs using Linux, especially since the architecture supports 32-bit code. Enea, Green Hills Software, Mentor Graphics and Wind River will issue statements supporting the new chips at the annual Freescale Technology Forum this week.
OEM development schedules will depend on when tools will be delivered. For its part, Freescale plans to release compilers sometime in the next three months.
Freescale's portfolio already includes eight-core, 32-bit chips. OEMs will have to determine whether to use such devices or the new single- and dual-core parts based on the extent of parallelism in their applications.
Long term, the new e5500 core will be the basis for Freescale's processors using 16 or more cores.
Su was non-committal about whether Freescale will use the 64-bit chips to attack the emerging market for <a href="http://www.eetimes.com/showArticle.jhtml;?articleID=225600470">low power servers</a>. ARM Ltd. is already working to address this market although it has yet to announce a 64-bit core.
"Our focus is comms processors, but we hit a lot of adjacent markets," said Su. "Servers are one market these chips could go into, but they can also be used in printers, aerospace and industrial apps," she said.