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Monday, July 23, 2007

Intrinsity goes for low power with ARM variant...

High performance logic company Intrinisty has used its high speed logic on the ARM cortex R4 core, but instead of gong for the highest possible speed has gone for a low power option.
This is producing twice the clock speed possible with traditional logic, so the Cortex R4X core will run at 600MHz on TSMC's 65nm LP process. The processor implementations uses Intrinsity’s Fast14 1-of-N Domino Logic (NDL) technology, which enables faster circuit speeds while minimizing power consumption and area.
This may well be an admission of defeat for Intrinsity, which has had a high performance MIPS version since it started 10 years ago now, but moved to a licensing model in 2004 and includes both processors and high speed memory.
“Intrinsity FastCores incorporate Fast14 technology, and we use this to enable breakthrough embedded processor performance with very low power consumption,” said Bob Russo, CEO, Intrinsity. “By working closely with ARM on the development of the Cortex-R4X processor implementations, together we will be able to reach a much broader base of designers who are looking for ways to achieve higher performance without sacrificing power efficiency and bring new SoCs to market quickly.”
Moving to a low power approach makes sense for ARM, and the R4X is aimed at storage, printer and networking applications, so taking on MIPS which is more dominant in these areas.
“Mass storage, printing and networking applications need ever increasing levels of performance to handle higher data rates, more media services and new functionality such as encryption,” said Graham Budd, executive vice president and general manager, Processor Division at ARM. “Through this relationship we can extend the performance range of the Cortex-R4 processor to meet these requirements and those of new market domains.”
All versions of the Cortex-R4 processor offer embedded Error Correcting Code (ECC) technology which monitors memory accesses to detect and correct errors, providing very high reliability and availability.
ARM says the Cortex-R4X processor implementations are available for licensing immediately, but will be shipped in Q1 next year. Expect other versions to follow, and an Intrinsity version of the Cortex A8 (the A8X perhaps, but more likely the A9) would hit 1.8GHz and perhaps top 2GHz on a high performance process.


... and sets up acquisition prospect


This technology looks vital to ARM, so expect Intrinsity to be an acquisition target. While it has licensed the technology to ATI (now part of AMD) and has investment from PowerPC licensee AMCC, neither of these are a major stumbling block to being part of ARM and fits well with the processor and IP design philosophy. If this proves popular, and there is little reason why not, then ARM cannot afford NOT to buy it.

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