Free Newsletter

Texas Instruments pushes Keystone towards supercomputers

Six new SoCs show how far TI wants to expand beyond base stations, targeting servers of various sizes plus industrial control

By CAROLINE GABRIEL

Published: 13 November, 2012

READ MORE: Texas Instruments | Infrastructure | Semiconductor

When Texas Instruments unveiled its Keystone system-on-chip architecture, it was clear that the brand new platform was designed to expand TI's reach beyond its traditional stronghold in base stations. How far it aims to stretch is more surprising though - after predictably pushing further into network processors and small cells earlier this year, it is now targeting servers as well as a wide range of networking gear with its combination of multicore ARM processors, DSPs and accelerators.

Marvell and start-up Calxeda have led the way into using ARM-based processors in servers, mainly addressing low power blade servers for cloud providers. TI also sees the shift to cloud architectures as its key driver, but is looking right up to high performance servers and supercomputers. Here, it is not aiming to oust the incumbent Intel x86 architecture, says Tom Flanagan, director of technical strategy at TI's wireless unit. Rather, it will offer chips to offload heavy duty floating point tasks, a role in which it will take on Nvidia, which makes a similar play, though using its graphics processing units rather than a DSP-based solution like TI's. Target functions would include media processing, video analytics and industrial imaging and control.


Flanagan believes the open ecosystem of ARM will ensure its success in many markets, especially if chip vendors stick with a unified approach - unlike some ARM users such as Qualcomm and Apple, TI uses the standard core design rather than adapting it, and relies on its accelerator and software efficiency to deliver a performance differential. The biggest of the new chips use up to four A15 cores and six DSPs to deliver up to 352GMACs and 19,600 Dhrystone MIPS.

Distinguishing features of its Keystone chips include a 256-bit interface from the cores to the SoC, clocked at the full 1.4GHz data rate of the cores, while some rivals use 128-bit interfaces clocked at only 33% to 50% of that rate. TI also squeezes up to 18Mbytes of aggregate memory on its top end SoCs and says it is unique in supporting Gigabit and 10Gbit Ethernet MACs.

The last of these features is critical to its positioning. Integrating networking onto the chip is a popular topic among chip designers as servers need to take on far greater levels of real time data analysis and other tasks where information must be processed in parallel and at ultra-high speeds. However, TI is rolling out 10Gbit capabilities imminently while Intel, for instance, is talking about 100Gbit networks-on-a-chip, but with no timelines. But adding integrated networking to a DSP/ARM architecture, in real world products, may allow TI to succeed in its aim of getting DSPs into servers.

While the high end server models will get the most attention, only two are devoted to that space. Another two come with just one DSP core and are aimed at smaller machines with less heavy signal processing loads, while two low end variants will focus on networking and industrial networks and come with no DSPs. These lower end chips will ship in the second half of next year while their high end stablemates are sampling from next month.

Pages: 1 | 2

Related Stories

Share

  • email story Email
  • print story Print
  • digit digit
  • facebook facebook
  • Twitter Twitter
  • Linked-in Linked-In
  • Comments (0)

COMMENTS

Add Comment
No comments yet. Be the first to add a comment!
MARKET PLACE

    BYOD: Market Analysis and Forecasts

    An in-depth insight into the rise of BYOD policies within the enterprise and analysis of the impact the trend will have on IT departments,...

    Voice Command, Control and Search on Mobile Phones: Market Analysis & Forecasts

    This report provides a comprehensive insight into the growing importance of voice command, control and search on handsets, analysing...

    Data Centre Network Equipment: Market Analysis and Forecasts

    This report provides a global assessment of the data centre network equipment market. Besides assessing the key market trends, sub-markets...

    HetNet Market Summary & Forecasts: Macro Cells, Small Cells & Wi-Fi Offload

    Carriers are struggling to cope with the explosion of data traffic on their networks, and the additional deployment of LTE and legacy...

    Over-the-Top Communications: Threats & Opportunities for Mobile Operators

    This report examines the implications of widespread adoption of mobile over-the-top IP communications for mobile operators, handset...

    Portable Gaming Consoles: Market Analysis and Forecasts

    This report provides a global assessment of the PGC market. In addition to assessing the key market drivers, market barriers, vendor...
WHITE PAPERS

    Satellite Phones: Will Dual Mode Help the Phoenix Rise from the Ashes?

    Satellite phones have followed an arduous path since their much-hyped launch more than a decade ago. The hype was followed by an e...

    Mobile Widget Platform Market Analysis: Understanding the Business Case and ROI

    This white paper presents an analysis of the mobile widget platform market, as well as metrics supporting a mobile carrier?s busin...

POST COMMENT

You must be a registered user to post a comment. or
Username *
Email *
Comment *