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Multi-threaded MIPS64 SoC doubles cores to 16

Apr 25, 2011 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 8 views

NetLogic Microsystems announced a new version of its Linux-ready XLP processor family that doubles the number of MIPS64 cores on board to 16. The XLP864 supports up to 2GHz clock rates and, with the help of more than 80 processing engines, enables 80Gbps throughput and 120 million packets-per-second (Mpps) performance, says the company.

The XLP864 is the first XLP processor announced since NetLogic Microsystems tipped the original, eight-core XLP832 in May 2009. This was shortly after the company had acquired its MIPS processor line — including the lower-end XLR and XLS multicore MIPS64 families — in its purchase of RMI.

Both the XLP832 and XLP864 offer four-way multithreading, a four-issue superscalar engine, and out-of-order execution, thanks in large part to the incorporation of 64-bit MIPS EC4400 cores. The devices offer far more processing power than the number of cores would suggest, claims NetLogic.

The new XLP864, for example is said to offer 64 highly independent threads, which Netlogic dubs "nxCPUs." Each nxCPU thread is viewed by the operating system and application software as another core, according to NetLogic. While NetLogic never mentions the number of cores, it does allow that the device offers twice the threads that its predecessor did, indicating a 16-core design.

No clock rate was mentioned for the processor, but the XLP line in general is said to support up to 2GHz speeds, the maximum listed for the XLP832 as well. The XLP864 delivers 300-400 percent performance improvement over "competing multi-core processors in real-world benchmarks on a core-by-core basis," claims the company.

The processor is capable of delivering 80Gbps throughput and 120 million packets-per-second (Mpps) of performance, claims the company. Targeted applications are said to include next-generation 3G/4G mobile wireless infrastructure, metro Ethernet, security, storage, enterprise, edge, and core infrastructure network applications.

Each of the device's 64 NXCPUs are equipped with a tri-level cache architecture with over 25MB of combined, fully coherent on-chip cache, says NetLogic. This is said to help deliver 40 Terabits/sec of high-speed on-chip memory bandwidth. The XLP864 also features NetLogic's low-latency Enhanced Fast Messaging Network to enable high-bandwidth communication among the 64 NXCPUs, says the company.

Over 80 specialized processor engines

The XLP864 processor also supplies over 80 autonomous processing engines that offload certain network functions from the NXCPUs. These functions are said to include:

  • 80Gbps autonomous Security Acceleration Engine supporting networking, wireless, and storage encryption/decryption/authentication protocols
  • 80Gbps network acceleration engines for ingress/egress packet parsing and management
  • 256Gbps RAID-5/RAID-6 acceleration
  • 20Gbps compression/decompression
  • packet ordering
  • storage de-duplication acceleration
  • TCP segmentation offload
  • IEEE 1588 hardware time stamping

High-speed networking interfaces offered with the XLP864 include Interlaken, XAUI, SGMII, PCI Express, USB 2.0, and NetLogic's own high-bandwidth Inter-chip Coherency Interface (ICI). NetLogic has yet to post a web-page for the SoC listing these interfaces in more detail.

As with the XLP832, the XLP864 is manufactured in Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company's (TSMC's) 40nm process technology, says the company.

Linux SDK by Enea, Timesys

Like other NetLogic multicore processors, the XLP864 offers a software development kit (SDK) that contains reference and production-ready software components, says NetLogic. The Linux SDK appears to be the recently announced Enea Linux PlatformBuilder for NetLogic ("ELPB-NE"), which combines Enea's Eclipse-based IDE with Timesys' LinuxLink build system and related development tools.

Last July, NetLogic announced a Linux-based NLX321103A hardware/software development kit, claimed to be the first fully deterministic networking solution that concurrently processes Layers 2-7 at 40Gbps wire-speed. The solution combines the XLP832 on a module with the company's NL11k and NETL7 Layer 7 "knowledge-based" processors.

Later that month, the company announced a chipset module called the XLP8128S that combines four XLP832 SoCs with hundreds of specialized networking processor engines.

Stated Linley Gwennap, principal analyst of The Linley Group, "This design is already proven in the XLP832, which has been sampling to customers for more than six months. Since then, NetLogic has quickly completed the XLP864 design, extending this product line to new levels of industry-leading performance."


NetLogic Microsystems is currently accepting orders for the XLP864 processors within standard lead times. More information should eventually appear at NetLogic's XLP page.

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