SAN FRANCISCO Metaflow Technologies Inc. (La Jolla, Calif.) will make Leon, an open-source, 32-bit Sparc-like processor, the heart of its licensable system-on-chip (SoC) platform. The VHDL source code of the Leon-1 CPU core is freely available on the Internet.
Metaflow, a wholly owned subsidiary of STMicroelectronics Inc., planned to announce its Implosion SoC platform for key hardware and software components at the Internet Protocol-based Design conference earlier this week in Grenoble, France.
Metaflow, formerly a 32-bit processor design group, has transformed itself into a design-services operation since ST acquired it in the early-1990s.
"The Linux phenomenon has proven that open source is an effective way for producing world-class IP, and has created legitimate business models for commercial companies adding value around this IP," said Cosma Pabouctsidis, Metaflow's marketing director. "The same is now happening with hardware IP, and Metaflow intends to be at the forefront of this revolution as it applies to systems-on-chip."
Built around the open Advanced Microcontroller Bus architecture (Amba), Metaflow's Implosion platform consists of foundation- and application-specific components that are preassembled and verified, processes which the company says shorten time-to-market and reduce costs. Metaflow can fully customize ICs to accommodate specific needs by adding or removing validated application-specific components or by adding third-party or full-custom blocks.
The Leon-1 is modeled after the architecture and instruction set of the IEEE P1754 proposed standard, which Sparc International spearheaded and which was inspired by the Sparc V8 architecture. The core features a five-stage pipeline for operation at speeds in excess of 125 MHz, eight register windows, a coprocessor extension bus, a separate data and instruction cache and an Amba bus interface. The Leon-1 source code is distributed under the GNU Lesser General Public License. Links to the source code, software and other developer's resources can be found at www.leoncenter.com.
Metaflow offers a broad range of value-added services around this core, from custom architectural enhancement, to physical implementations optimized for security, speed and/or low power consumption.
The Leon core may be substituted in the Implosion platform with any other Amba-compliant embedded CPU.
In addition to the core, the foundation components of the Implosion platform include two 10/100 Ethernet media-access controllers with direct memory access (DMA), a line-speed DES/3DES data-encryption engine, on-chip SRAM and an SDRAM and flash controller for external memory. The dual-Ethernet architecture allows Implosion-based devices to perform simple IP routing and switching functions. Other foundation blocks include a universal asynchronous receiver/transmitter, general-purpose timers, watchdog timer, interrupt controller and multichannel DMA controller.
A number of wired and portable products can be built on the Implosion platform, including Web-browsing appliances, e-mail stations, home servers and gateways, Internet music and video distribution devices and equipment for Internet telephony.
Metaflow supports the Leon-based Implosion platform with a complete suite of open-source software, including a GNU C/C++ compiler, C libraries, a GNU debugger with graphical front end and a full-featured real-time operating system with TCP/IP stack. The platform also runs the embedded Linux operating system with drivers available for all foundation components. Other commercial software tools and operating systems for the Sparc processor can be made to work on the platform.
Implosion's optional application-specific components include a universal serial bus (USB) host controller, USB device controller and a color LCD controller with programmable resolution from quarter-VGA (320 x 200 pixels) to XGA (1,024 x 768 pixels). Other components are available from an extensive third-party IP catalog, or Metaflow can design them.
Optional digital signal-processing extensions are also available to boost performance in multimedia and advanced communication algorithms.
Metaflow supports Implosion with a field-programmable gate -array-based prototyping and emulation board that can be used to evaluate the Leon core, validate custom SoCs and serve as a near-real-time software development platform. Once an Implosion-based design is validated, Metaflow's VLSI team will design the chip and bring it to manufacturing at Metaflow's foundry partners, or at the customer's designated fab.
The Implosion platform and all its components are available now.