ARM Wrestles With New Chips

England-based chip design concern ARM Monday announced four new microprocessors designed to reduce energy usage and performance, while improving security and safety across the board.

All of the new additions to the ARM11 family, and all possess different components of ARM’s patented 16/32-bit embedded RISC approach.

Some 70 chip makers, including Intel, LSI Logic, Sun Microsystems, and Texas Instruments, license Cambridge-based ARM’s intellectual property designs to make their own processors for use in devices such as mobile phones, fax modems, handheld computers, and set-top boxes.

The new processors are the latest in a series of ARM technologies designed to make processing faster, safer, and smaller, and are based on the ARMv6 instruction set architecture. News of the new processors was released at the Microprocessor Forum at the San Jose Fairmont Hotel in downtown San Jose, Calif. this week.

ARM officials said that the first pair — the ARM1176JZ-S core and the ARM1176JZF-S core — power a new version of the ARM 11 core family-based PrimeXsys Platform, and are the first products to implement ARM TrustZone technology for enhanced security in open operating system applications. The devices also are the first to integrate support for ARM Intelligent Energy Manager technology, which reduces processor energy usage by up to 75 percent.

The second processing duo — ARM1156T2-S core and the ARM1156T2F-S core — are targeted at a variety of deeply embedded storage, automotive networking, and imaging applications such as high-performance disk drives, digital still cameras, engine managements units and cable modems. These cores will be the first to integrate ARM Thumb-2 core technology extensions, providing a blended 16-bit and 32-bit instruction set architecture that delivers software 26 percent smaller than existing solutions.

According to David Cormie, the company’s CPU product manager, all four new cores extend the range of the ARM11 family to provide new levels of security, CPU performance and throughput, while adding specific functionality to help solve the design challenges of next-generation devices.

“As concern continues to increase over security in next-generation consumer and wireless devices, a trusted computing environment is required to meet the critical data protection and privacy needs of operators, service providers, and consumers,” he said.

Richard Phelan, ARM’s embedded cores manager, echoed these sentiments perfectly, adding, “In an increasingly competitive environment, system developers strive to balance the conflicting requirements for high-performance embedded systems with the need to maintain low costs while extending battery life.”

In particular, Phelan said that with a new operating frequency of up to 550 megahertz, the ARM1156T2-S and ARM1156T2F-S cores “equip [customers] with the intellectual property necessary to address high-performance requirements for a wide range of emerging embedded control applications.”

The latest ARM cores build upon some of the developments featured in the company’s 32-bit technology for smart cards unveiled last year. All four of the new cores include the ARM-Synopsys RTL to GDSII Reference Methodology, which streamlines the process to port synthesizable ARM microprocessor cores to their chosen technologies. The ARM1156T2F-S core also includes a vector floating-point unit to accelerate the complex calculations necessary in automotive and imaging applications.

The ARM1176JZ-S and ARM1176JZF-S cores are based on the ARMv6 instruction set architecture and are targeted at service providers and operators that need to deliver products that support e-commerce and secure download of content. These cores also integrate support for the ARM Intelligent Energy Manager, which reduces processor energy usage by up to 75 percent and thereby provides extended battery life or talk time for mobile users.

The ARM1176JZ-S, ARM1176JZF-S, ARM1156T2-S, and ARM1156T2F-S all conform to the new AMBA 3.0 AXI System bus specification for higher memory bandwidth, simplified interconnect design and reduced time to market. The processors will be released by April 2004.

The new processors piggyback off of ARM’s announcement last week that it has expanded its Foundry Program offerings to include the ARM926EJ core, the ARM926EJ PrimeXsys Platform and the Embedded Trace Macrocell module. The products are being added to the company’s ARM926EJ Prime Starter Kit, in which OEMs and fabless semiconductor companies can license directly from ARM.

Combining the licensing model, ARM said it is now able to offer OEMs and fabless design houses access to the first Jazelle technology-enabled ARM core along with a platform for accelerating designs to market. Jazelle is a Java byte code execution performance with low-power consumption. The core has an MMU feature for enhanced virtual memory support to run popular, complex Open operating systems, such as Symbian OS, Windows CE, Linux, Palm OS and QNX.

The core also includes advanced system architecture features such as fixed 16K instruction and data caches, interfaces to configurable instruction and data Tightly Coupled Memory (TCM) and an integral AMBA 2.0 AHB interface with separate instruction and data AHB masters for optimum performance in a multi-layer AHB system. The ARM926EJ core is ideally suited to support designs in the wireless, portable, broadband, networking, storage, and automotive telematics and infotainment markets.

ARM wireless segment manager Dave Steer told the cores should be in most devices in two years. The company is also applying the technology to its embedded processor offerings, which Steer estimates should debut in cars in the 2009, 2010 time frame.

“We’ve already gotten significant interest from our licensees,” Steer said. “It also means our fabless partners will have access to more of our intellectual property at an appropriate entry point while having a manufacturing route offered through two of the world’s leading pure-play foundries.”

Semiconductor foundry giants Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) and United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC), will be the first two foundries to offer the ARM926EJ core through the ARM Foundry Program.

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