Monday, October 02, 2006

Agere deal adds another step to asynchronous logic

Asynchronous logic design house Intrinsity has signed a deal with Agere Systems to use Intrinsity's Fast14 technology.
I've kept an eye on Intrinsity for years now, waiting for its time to come. This isn't it, as the Agere deal includes memory control and design services and won't see the boom that Intinsity is hoping, and hanging on, for.
The technology is great - low power with high performance, just what everyone says they need. And a few companies have used it: AMCC is using it for an asynchronous version of the PowerPC, and ATI has used it in the past, which may bring it into AMD. But the domino logic techniques it uses are hard for today's design tools (and for today's designers) to use, so I suspect Intrinsity has to do most of the work. Great as a boutique business with Fast14 as a demonstrator of your abiities - not so great as the next best thing since sliced bread.

"Intrinsity's Fast14 technology represents a revolutionary way to build enhanced embedded cores," says Bob Russo, Intrinsity CEO. "Fast14 provides performance, area, power and infrastructure cost savings in ways conventional technologies cannot achieve. We are pleased to be working with Agere to deliver digital macrocells that will provide superior performance per milliwatt. Additionally, by employing both this technology and high speed memory design expertise, our expert processor design team will be able to leverage the strengths of both dynamic and static CMOS technologies and provide cores that optimally meet Agere's targets."

But it is other approaches for asynchronous that are taking off more effectively - particularly Handshake Solutions, with an asynchronous, ultra low power version of the ARM processor (ARM996HS) for RFID applications where power is more important than performance. But the key thing that Handshake did was build synchronous interfaces to allow the processor core to interface easily to the rest of the system-on-chip. That was hard to make work, and hits the performance, but actually made the technology viable. That's the area where Intrinsity struggles.

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