SAN JOSE, Calif. – Hoping to get a jump on archrival ARM Ltd., MIPS Technologies aims to launch this fall at least two 64-bit synthesizable cores. Unlike its now-discontinued offerings from several years ago, the Prodigy family will include members that support multithreading and issue multiple instructions per clock cycle.
MIPS will not provide product details on the cores until the launch this fall. But they are expected to act as upgrades for the company's 34K midrange 32-bit cores.
Prodigy will include at least two members, a single core executing a single instruction per clock and a multiprocessor executing at least two instructions per clock. The multicore version will support at least four threads per core, two virtual processors and nine thread contexts.
The existing MIPS 74K processor is expected to continue to command the company's high-end given its focus on fast single-thread performance with an out-of-order pipeline. MIPS has not implemented test versions of the Prodigy designs yet, and is not expected to have production quality RTL shipping until early 2012.
MIPS is aiming Prodigy at the ARM Cortex A15 core announced last fall, a 32-bit chip with extended memory addressing. ARM has not yet announced a 64-bit architecture or support for multithreading, but the Denver project, a family of ARM processors in the works at Nvidia, is rumored to include support for both technologies.
Some ARM chip makers including Marvell are driving their chips into server and high-end networking apps. They are putting pressure on ARM to roll out a 64-bit core with multithreading.
An analyst briefed on Prodigy was undecided on whether the cores will help MIPS expand its share of the processor core market, currently stable at about 13 percent by revenue. ARM commands two-thirds of the market with the rest going to a handful of smaller players including Tensilica, IBM and others.
"Getting out early and waving the 64-bit flag will get MIPS some attention," said Joe Byrne, senior analyst with the Linley Group (Mountain View, Calif.).
MIPS was early in supporting a 64-bit architecture with its R4000 core in 1991 and subsequently its 5K core. However they only supported single-issue pipelines, lacked multithreading support and were replaced about five years ago by more powerful 32-bit parts.