SAN FRANCISCO—NXP Semiconductors announced a new low power processor based on Freescale technology that is the size of a microcontroller. With 1 Watt typical power in a 9.6mm x 9.6mm package, the 64-bit QorIQ LS1012A processor may be the smallest and lowest power 64-bit embedded processor in the market.
LS1012A compared to a thumbtack. Source: NXP
The processor runs an ARM Cortex A53 core, a 2 Gbits/second packet crypto accelerator, and incorporates dual 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet, PCIe, SATA3 and USB 3.0 with integrated PHY. NXP expects the processor to fit in applications such as Internet of Things (IoT) gateways, portable entertainment platforms, high performance portable storage applications featuring mobile HDD, and mobile storage for rechargeable devices.
LS1012A block diagram. Source: NXP
“Because [LS1012A] has high performance networking and is low power and very small, you can make very compact portable hard drives or flash drives, which are connected on Wi-Fi,” said Jim Bridgwater, senior product manager at NXP. “Or in home automation you have a lot of sensors…that need to aggregate data and need high performance gigabyte networking capability. Those systems...can have a smaller, cheaper battery and the overall device is smaller.”
The LS1012A is also designed to tackle Ethernet drive—an emerging, object-based storage paradigm that relies on an intelligent hard disk drive (HDD) that is directly connected to the data center Ethernet network. NXP’s processor is small enough to integrate directly onto the PCB of a HDD, Bridgwater said, enabling an Ethernet Drive in the same form-factor as existing HDDs.
“Storage is really changing and you have to bring that via Ethernet where it’s needed. Distributed storage is way more cost effective than traditional EMC storage,” Lee Doyle, principal analyst at Doyle Research, told EE Times. “The whole networking industry is changing to software defined and [network function virtualization]. This will fit into a more distributed network where you want to collect, analyze and distribute traffic at the edge.”
While NXP definitely has competition from the likes of Broadcom, whose StrataXGS family of Ethernet switches are perform well but are only 32-bit and most don’t achieve 1 W performance. The only place Linley Group Senior Analyst Tom Halfhill sees compromise is in LS1012A’s memory interface.
“The only reservations I had was memory interface—it’s only 16-bits wide and doesn’t have error correction on it, so that might limit it in some applications,” he told EE Times. “You have to make some tradeoffs to make [a processor] this size.”
LS1012A further extends NXP’s product portfolio and roadmap beyond many other major players in the market.
“This is another node on a very scalable platform of 64-bit networking processors, which range from single core devices to eight-core devices,” Bridgwater said. “From a broader NXP point-of-view, it’s very complimentary to other technologies in NXP’s portfolio like NFC.”
LS1012A will sample in April 2016 with mass production in the fourth quarter of this year. NXP has not announced any partner products, but said the processor will be its standout announcement at Embedded World 2016 in Nuremburg, Germany.
— Jessica Lipsky, Associate Editor, EE Times