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Graham Bell
Graham Bell
Graham is Sr. Director of Marketing at Real Intent. He has over 20 years experience in the design automation industry. Occasionally he writes blogs for the Dominion of Design. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are his alone and not those of his employer.

Linley Wire: Broadcom/NetLogic, Cavium, Cortina

September 16th, 2011 by Graham Bell
I received this issue of the Linley Wire and thought you would be interested in seeing the analysis of recent networking developments.
Linley Wire, Volume 11, Issue 9

September 16, 2011

Independent Analysis of the Networking-Silicon Industry

Editor: Bob Wheeler
Contributor: Jag Bolaria, Joseph Byrne, Linley Gwennap

In This Issue:

-Now Available: A Guide to High-Speed Embedded Processors
-Broadcom Acquires NetLogic
-NetLogic Previews 28nm XLP
-Cavium Enters Search Coprocessor Market
-Cortina Processor Opens Gateways
-Processor Conference October 5-6 in San Jose

To read these articles on-line, click here


Now Available: A Guide to High-Speed Embedded Processors

The Linley Group’s new report “A Guide to High-Speed Embedded Processors” is now available for immediate delivery.  This completely revised report provides extensive coverage of high-end embedded processors with 317 pages of information on AppliedMicro, AMD, Broadcom, Cavium, Freescale, Intel, LSI, Marvell, NetLogic, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments, Tilera, Ubicom, Via Technologies, and Xilinx. For more details on this report, access

Broadcom Acquires NetLogic

By Jag Bolaria

This week, Broadcom announced that it will acquire NetLogic Microsystems for $3.7 billion. Broadcom’s largest acquisition, NetLogic will become part of the Infrastructure and Networking Group (ING) under Rajiv Ramaswami. ING rang up $1.6 billion in revenue last year, mainly on shipments of Ethernet chips, contributing about a quarter of the company’s total revenue. NetLogic adds a business that had revenue of $382 million last year and a staff of 645 employees. The NetLogic product lines that contributed the bulk of last year’s business were embedded processors and KBPs (Knowledge Based Processors). NetLogic also has a 10G Ethernet PHY product line, but this line generated significantly less revenue and was not consequential to the acquisition.

For NetLogic, consolidation at this princely sum is a wonderful exit to a charmed life. In the highly competitive search coprocessor market, NetLogic evolved from a startup to the dominant supplier while one-by-one its competitors folded operations. The company expanded its target market by acquiring RMI for $183 million, and that business grew as a result of excellent leadership and favorable market conditions. Looking forward, NetLogic faced a more challenging environment. Cavium is entering the search coprocessor market with an innovative product that has a strong potential to win market share from NetLogic. Additionally, NetLogic’s execution on its next-generation XLP processor has been weak, which had the potential to impact future growth.

As a part of Broadcom, the KBP business is more defendable, and the processor business should benefit from Broadcom’s considerable engineering and sales resources to improve execution and win market share. For Broadcom, this deal provides a family of multicore MIPS-compatible processors. The XLP processor is popular in networking and communications equipment, a market where Broadcom is currently the leading supplier of Ethernet chips. Broadcom will be able to expand its networking target market by bundling Ethernet chips with data-plane and control-plane processors. Additionally, NetLogic gives Broadcom an opportunity to become a major player in the larger embedded processor market—where the company currently has only a small share generated from legacy products.

With this acquisition, Broadcom also gets wireless base station DFE (digital front-end) chips, which came to NetLogic through its Optichron acquisition earlier this year. In the last year, ING has targeted base stations and related technologies through internal Carrier Ethernet switches and acquisitions. In 4Q10, it acquired Percello, which was developing femtocell processors. Earlier this year it acquired Provigent, which was developing microwave backhaul components. While Broadcom has built a portfolio of mobile infrastructure components, the company has yet to articulate a platform strategy that cohesively combines them all.

NetLogic Previews 28nm XLP
By Linley Gwennap

One week before the Broadcom acquisition was announced, NetLogic Microsystems announced its plans to move its XLP processor into 28nm technology, with the first products sampling in 1Q12, according to the company. The next-generation manufacturing process will enable the company to increase the number of CPUs from 8 in the current 40nm XLP to a maximum of 20 in the forthcoming XLP II family. NetLogic has set a clock-speed target of 2.5GHz for the 28nm parts, 25% faster than the target for the current XLP. With the increase in both clock speed and core count, the XLP II is rated at 100Gbps of packet-processing throughput; the company did not specify the type of processing that can be performed at this rate.

Like the XLP, the new processors will support multisocket cache-coherent implementations using proprietary chip-to-chip interfaces called ICI. The XLP II will add a fourth ICI port, enabling designs with eight processor chips and 160 CPUs working together in a single coherent memory model. This coherent model simplifies programming, eliminating the need for software pipelining or other forms of partitioning. No competing processor vendor provides scalability to this level of performance.

In most other ways, the new processors will be similar to the existing XLP, which features a four-way superscalar CPU with simultaneous multithreading and a variety of accelerators, including encryption, reg-ex, compression, de-duplication, TCP, and RAID engines. To support the additional CPUs, the XLP II will increase the size of the on-chip caches and support the latest DDR3 memory speeds. The company did not disclose details such as power dissipation or pricing for the next-generation products.

Unlike most processor vendors, NetLogic has extensive experience with 28nm technology. The company has already developed multiple products, including 10G Ethernet PHYs and search coprocessors, in TSMC’s 28nm HP technology. This experience should ease the development of the XLP II, which we assume uses the same process. Freescale has also announced plans to sample its first 28nm processor, the T4240, in 1Q12. Thus, the two companies are in a horserace to deliver the first 28nm multicore processor.

The XLP II offers impressive specifications that should keep it at the forefront of performance. By extending its unique multisocket scalability, the new processor will be particularly well suited to extremely demanding applications. A more complete analysis, however, must await a full disclosure of the product’s details.

NetLogic will disclose additional details of the XLP II architecture at the Linley Tech Processor Conference on October 5–6. For more information on this event, access

Cavium Enters Search Coprocessor Market
By Jag Bolaria

In August, Cavium announced its upcoming family of search coprocessors. The products include the Neuron Search and the Neuronmax Search lines of coprocessors. The former is a standalone search coprocessor that integrates all required memory, while the latter uses a combination of on-chip and external memory. The primary difference between these components is the addition of a DDR3 controller in Neuronmax Search.

Scheduled to sample in 1Q12, these coprocessors perform Layer 2 through Layer 4 lookups for networking equipment in the enterprise and service provider markets. Specifically, each device can perform LPM (longest prefix match) and ACL-rule lookups. Instead of using a TCAM-based architecture, Cavium has developed proprietary technology to perform LPM and ACL lookups. The company claims Neuron Search provides 4× the capacity of a 40Mb TCAM at half the power, giving it a tremendous advantage. Neuronmax Search uses external memory to support up to 20 times the capacity of Neuron Search.

The Neuron Search family interfaces to a network processor using Interlaken LA or a parallel bus. With Interlaken, Neuron Search supports the latest NPUs, while the parallel interface supports legacy NPUs. Cavium plans to offer family members at different performance levels, ranging from 100 million searches per second to 1.6 billion searches per second with guaranteed latency.

Cavium enters the search coprocessor market at the beginning of a new growth spurt, which is driven by the move from IPv4 to IPv6 combined with greater port rates. By guaranteeing latency, Cavium has addressed the traditional issue associated with algorithmic solutions. At the same time, Neuron/Neuronmax Search are set to take the lead in capacity per watt. With its power and density advantages, Neuron/Neuronmax Search are well positioned to win designs against traditional TCAM-based search coprocessors.

Additional coverage of search coprocessors appears in our report “A Guide to Network Processors”.

Access our web site for more details:

Cortina Processor Opens Gateways
By Joseph Byrne

Cortina has developed a new gateway processor featuring a dual-core 400–800MHz ARM Cortex-A9. Accelerators enable 2Gbps of data-plane performance and relieve the CPUs of network-processing functions, such as network address translation (NAT), encryption, packet prioritization, upper-level MAC functions for Wi-Fi, and TCP operations including segmentation and reassembly. CPU cycles are at a premium because next-generation gateways must handle data at gigabit rates while performing services such as dishing out video to TVs and to thin-client set-top-boxes. There’s also talk of running Java applications, and even Android, on gateways. Such applications leave little time for CPUs to chase packets.

Typical of gateway processors, the CS7542 features three Gigabit Ethernet ports. In a standard configuration, one port connects to a broadband modem, another to a home-networking (e.g., Moca, HPNA, or HomePlug) chip, and the third to an Ethernet switch to fan out to other LAN ports. Three multiplexed PCI Express/SATA ports provide connections to peripherals such as Wi-Fi transceivers and disk drives. An additional unmultiplexed SATA interface brings the total of possible direct-attached drives to four, enabling construction of a four-bay home-storage (NAS) system without use of external port multipliers or controllers.

An unusual feature is the CS7542’s six MPEG Transport Stream (MPEG-TS) interfaces, which accept data from satellite, cable, and terrestrial TV receivers. The CS7542 can, for example, wrap these streams in a copy-protection layer and beam them to networked devices over its Ethernet ports. For audio output, the processor has a pair of PCM interfaces, enabling the processor to adapt VoIP to analog telephones. Ports for I2S and SPDIF provide output for high-quality audio. For displaying management information, the processor connects directly to LCD panels. High-quality video requires an external PCIe-based video decoder.

The market for PON gateways is much smaller than for DSL gateways, making it difficult for vendors of PON gateway processors to establish a profitable business. None of these suppliers has created a sustainable franchise; developing a gateway processor is clearly easier than selling one. As in DSL, broadband integration is inevitable, and Cortina is well positioned to combine its EPON controller into its gateway processor in the future. In the meantime, the CS7542 validates Cortina’s processor technology and offers some unique features that should help it win designs.

Processor Conference October 5-6 in San Jose

Twenty of the most influential suppliers of processors for networking and communications will present their newest technologies at the 2011 Linley Tech Processor Conference. Click here to see a detailed program and to register for this not to be missed event.
Registration is free for qualified attendees.

Keynote speakers include Linley Gwennap, Principal Analyst for The Linley
Group and the industry’s premier expert on the microprocessor technology
and markets, and Christos Kolias, Network Architect at Orange and an expert
on OpenFlow and software-defined networking.

This two-day single-track event also has sessions dedicated to:

  • 100Gbps networking
  • Processors for base stations
  • Embedded processors for data-plane processing
  • Data-plane software
  • Secure system design and virtualization
  • Memory and memory alternatives
  • Scalable and extensible processors
  • Next-generation CPU designs

About Linley Wire

Linley Wire is a free electronic newsletter published by The Linley Group, a technology analysis and strategic consulting firm. Linley Wire will present our analysis of recent news on semiconductors for networking and communications. Articles are posted weekly to our web site and sent monthly via email. To access the web content directly, visit our web site.

Linley Wire is not affiliated with any outside vendors. We do not rent or sell our mailing list; it is used only to send you the newsletter and information on our events.

We encourage you to forward this newsletter to colleagues who may benefit from receiving this information. They may subscribe by visiting our web site.

Copyright 2011, The Linley Group

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