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Discount ASIC vendor promotes Linux-friendly core

Dec 4, 2007 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Configurable processor manufacturer Tensilica and fabless ASIC vendor eASIC have started promoting a deal claimed to make ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits) more cost-competitive with FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays). The promotion gives customers “free access” to Tensilica cores and DSPs, with no mask charges or minimum orders, according to eASIC.

One of the cores being promoted by eASIC is Tensilica's Diamond Standard 232L core. Tensilica designed the 232L specifically to run Linux, with an MMU (memory management unit) and 16KB each of four-way associative instruction and data cache. The company worked with MontaVista to create a version of Linux Professional Edition optimized for the processor, it said when it launched the 232L several years ago.

The “L” is for Linux, in Tensilica's Diamond Standard 232L

eASIC claims it can provide one-month turnaround on custom-configured ASICs based on Tensilica's Diamond Standard cores. Other Tensilica cores being promoted include a 330HiFi 24-bit audio DSP, several cacheless 32-bit microcontrollers, and several higher-end VLIW (very long instruction word) cores in Tensilica's 5xx family.

Tensilica Diamond Standard 330HiFi audio DSP

eASIC and Tensilica appear to be responding to growing competition from increasingly capable FPGAs. Historically, FPGAs have tended to cost more per unit than ASICs, but have been cheaper to develop, and therefore more affordable at lower volumes.

Stated Chris Jones, Tensilica's director of strategic alliances, “eASIC's Structured ASIC technology offers customers a lower power, higher density solution than FPGAs, at a much lower cost and faster time to market than cell-based ASICs.”

Earlier this year, eASIC was one of seven companies chosen for the Embedded Systems Conference's Disruption Zone attraction showcasing innovative startups.

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