SandCraft to pursue 'multipipelining'
By Craig Matsumoto, EE Times
February 12, 2002 (1:23 p.m. EST)
SAN MATEO, Calif. MIPS-based-processor vendor SandCraft Inc. (Santa Clara, Calif.) is focusing its engineering team on a high-end architecture that's best described as "multiple-pipeline parts," a company executive told EE Times.
The news comes as SandCraft begins volume shipments of its first chip, several months behind schedule.
SandCraft's original road map included what appeared to be dual-core and multicore chips, code-named Wolfgang and Ludwig, that were due to be announced this year. But the company's next phase will involve something more complex, chief executive Paul Vroomen said.
"Putting two cores next to each other is a simplistic way to solve this problem. We think there are better ways," he said.
While Vroomen didn't discuss competition, the multipipelined devices would appear to be an answer to the two-core B CM1250 developed by SiByte Inc., a fellow MIPS-processor developer that was acquired by Broadcom Corp. late in 2000. Vroomen wouldn't disclose details of the future architectures, however, and it's unclear whether Wolfgang and Ludwig referred to the multipipeline chips all along or whether the latter are a new development.
In any event, SandCraft has channeled the bulk of its engineering resources toward the multipipeline products, Vroomen said. He declined to estimate when the products might become available.
Meanwhile, on Feb. 11 SandCraft announced volume shipments of its SR71000 and SR71010 processors, at speeds of 500, 550 and 600 MHz.
The chips mark SandCraft's first products as a fabless semiconductor house; previously, the company sold intellectual-property cores. But SandCraft's fabless debut has come late. Company officials had hoped to sample its first parts by A pril 2001.
SandCraft got the SR71000 taped out in March 2001 but had trouble bringing the chip to market because of the complexities of manufacturing a debut part: "These new processes are not trivial to deal with," Vroomen said. "To the credit of UMC [United Microelectronics Corp., SandCraft's foundry], we did get through it."
SandCraft remains on target for its next chip, an 800-MHz processor due to sample this quarter. That part is already in the fab, Vroomen said.
Separately, he said SandCraft is developing lower-cost versions of its Mips core targeted primarily at the consumer market and "performance enhancements" of the core. Both are due to be announced this year.
While the company remains committed to networking, Vroomen said he wants to target consumer electronics and other sectors to counterbalance this year's humbled communications market.
"I think analysts agree that the size of the control-plane market has probably shrunk by a good 40 percent from the year 2000," he said, while noting that design activity in networking continues to be brisk.