Broadcom muscles into ARM servers with 64-bit core - Embedded.com

Broadcom muscles into ARM servers with 64-bit core

SAN JOSE,Calif. — Broadcom jumped into the race todeliver 64-bit ARM SoCs for servers andcomms infrastructure gear with plans for acustom core initially made in a 16 nm FinFETprocess. Broadcom will present its plans atthe Linley Processor Conferenceamid a handful of announcements, including anew Freescale ARM-based SoC for comms gear.

With the news, Broadcom signals its plansto shift from MIPS to ARM for a broad arrayof products. It follows similar announcementsfrom a handful of its top competitors.

“It's pretty clear ARM and the x86 will winout” in comms, said Linley Gwennap,principal analyst with the Linley Group inan email exchange.

“Seven of the eight top comms processorvendors have announced or deployed an ARMstrategy,” Gwennap said. “Once these ARMSoCs enter production, demand for MIPS andPowerPC chips will phase out over time,” hesaid, noting ARM's new 64-bit architecturewill be a key enabler to its gainingtraction.

The PowerPC still dominates in today'scomms chips, followed by the x86 and MIPS.ARM only has “a toehold” today and couldtake five to ten years to rise up the ranks,Gwennap predicts. Nevertheless, the shift toARM has become a stampede with AMD,Broadcom, Cavium, Freescale, LSI, andseveral others planning parts for serversand comms infrastructure, he said.

ARM and x86 are expected to take over the PowerPC dominant role. (Source: The Linley Group)

ARMand x86 are expected to take over thePowerPC dominant role.
(Source: The Linley Group)

Broadcom is designing a custom quad-issue,quad-threaded, out-of-order ARMv8 processorthat Gwennap expects will “raise the bar” insingle and multi-core performance. The corewill power SoCs aimed at server, comms,storage, and security systems. The fact thecore is being designed in a 16 nm FinFETprocess suggests first parts may not shipuntil late 2014.

Separately, Broadcom said it is workingwith carriers, Linaro, and the EuropeanTelecommunications Standards Institute tohelp create a software environment fornetwork virtualization supporting ARM andother architectures. The software will helpBroadcom's users migrate from its currentMIPS-based XLP processors to its future ARMSoCs, the company said.

For its part, Freescale is announcing itsfirst ARM processors under its Layerscapeinitiative, announced in mid-2012. The companydesigned custom PowerPC cores and was thefirst with high-end 28 nm comms processor,said Gwennap.

However, Freescale slipped two points incomms market share rankings last year withweakness in sales to wireless base stations,Gwennap said. By contrast, Broadcom hadstrong growth thanks to its NetLogicacquisition, and Intel saw healthy growthlast year, he said. For its part, Caviumstalled, its Octeon II chip coming late tomarket, he added.

To read more, go to “IP blocks and memory hurdles.”

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