Intel has developed what Leszinske called a chassis to allow IP blocks to be swapped in and out for different applications. This is called the Intel On-Chip System Fabric (IOSF) and it performs an analogous role to the AMBA interconnection scheme used in the ARM community.
There is little detail about the IOSF in the public domain although engineers have presented at a couple of conferences, Leszinske said. "It allows us to connect our own and third-party IP, Imagination graphics as an example," he said. "It's scalable, supports multicore operation and maintains PCI order, which is important for compatibility of software," he added.
The use of IOSF is paying off by maximizing design efficiency with modularity and reuse for multiple markets. The most important aspect of IOSF is that it lets Intel take a system-level approach to power management, Leszinske said.
Intel's IP situation has also been changed by a make, buy or license strategy implemented over the last couple of years. Intel now reckons to have wide portfolio of IP ranging from graphics, audio and video to wired connectivity standards through to wireless standards. "An example of licensing is Imagination. We opted to buy Texas Instrument's cable modem business. We bought a company called Silicon Hive for image processing and Infineon [purchase] brings a set of wireless modems."
Leszinske then made the point that Intel has thousands of software engineers all working on necessary software stacks. This work goes well beyond writing drivers for software-programmable chips and includes contributions to MeeGo for mobile, the Wndows 8 environment, VxWorks for embedded applications and Intel's security acquisition McAfee. "This [software] will be the strength of Intel going forward," said Leszinske.
And Leszinske makes it clear that success is already coming with millions of SoCs shipped already. Intel SoCs drive digital televisions from Sony and set-top boxes from Telecom Italia and Comcast. Intel is clearly in netbooks, single-board computers and communications networking and servers and in automotive infotainment systems. The devices shipping are in 45-nm process technology but 32-nm SoCs are starting this year in tablet computers and smartphone applications are expected in 2012, said Leszinske.
Lezsinke said Intel SoCs are competitive today and that he expects Intel to have leading technology performance and leading performance per watt at 22-nm and below. However, it is the mix of leading-edge hardware performance and software that make the difference. "We understand the needs of our customers," he said.
This is a huge step forward for Intel if they are going to a real player in the Embedded market because on-chip integration of IP blocks (especially comms & analog) is expected these days. IOSF, yet another acronym for the pot!
"an extensive IP library and software" Yet watch the IP trolls come out of the woodworks anyway with an enormous lawsuit based on their own (questionable) patents. Lets hope this time Intel will mount a large tough countersuit to put these vultures out of business for ever.
Inevitable that Intel goes SoC, it doesn't want to become a commodity part of the system, but the system itself on one chip. But that means the chip's power budget will have to increase to encompass the system's power budget. It's going to be hard to market.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.