MANHASSET, N.Y. - IBM Corp's Microelectronics Division has unveiled the 750CXe family PowerPC microprocessors geared to embedded networking and imaging applications.
The family includes high-speed, low-power versions of the 750CX processors that IBM began to ship last June, and provides an upgrade path for networking communications customers who have adopted IBM's earlier 750-based PowerPCs.
The 750CXe marks IBM's ongoing effort to push the PowerPC architecture, originally designed for desktop and portable PCs, further into high-end embedded applications. IBM has thus tailored the new family for networking apps, removing die area that had been committed to legacy PC functions and incorporating 256 kbytes of high-speed L2 cache to enhance performance, reduce bottlenecks and decrease the number of on-board components.
The 750CXe devices are IBM's first PowerPC chips to employ a "tweaked " version of the company's 0.18-micron copper wiring technology, said PowerPC marketing manager Dean Parker. The tweak allows the chips to achieve higher performance levels at half the power dissipation of their nearest competitors, as well as register improvements over the 750CX family, Parker said.
While the 400-MHz version of the 750CX dissipated 4.0 watts of power, for instance, the 400-MHz 750CXe dissipates 3.5 watts, Parker said.
Despite its focus on embedded markets, IBM has announced a computer design win for the new family. Apple Computer Inc. (Cupertino, Calif.) will use the 750CXe as the processor for new models of its G3 iMac systems introduced at MacWorld Expo in Tokyo earlier this month. Nevertheless, PowerPC sales in embedded systems surpassed sales in the PC space last year, and that trend is expected to continue, Parker said.
On the embedded front, Artesyn Communications Products (Boca Raton, Fla.) plans to use the 750CXe chip family to boost the performance of its PCI mezzanine cards.
Though the speed upticks IBM has achieved with the 750CXe are noteworthy (the clock speeds of the 750CE family ranged from 350 to 550 MHz, and the speeds for the 750CXe range from 400 to 700 MHz), they don't match the PowerPCs introduced by Motorola Inc.'s Semiconductor Products Sector earlier this year. Motorola aims its 733-MHz MPC 7450 at the high-end networking space. Apple has also opted to use that Motorola chip - in its G4 line of computers. Industry sources have suggested the clock speed of the MPC 7450 device that could be bumped as high as 800 MHz in 2001, though a Motorola spokesman stated only that the device has headroom for higher clock speeds. Last year, Motorola announced plans for a 1-GHz PowerPC that will target high-end computing and networking applications.
Undaunted, IBM's Parker said he is "comfortable that our advanced technology will allow us to continue to develop the highest performance PowerPC products in the industry."
IBM said it expects to introduce future g enerations of the PowerPC later this year, but declined to release information on the clock speeds of those parts.
IBM also plans to unveil additional versions of its 64-bit Power PC based on the Book E architecture jointly developed with Motorola, Parker told EE Times.
The IBM PowerPC 750CXe chips come in a small, 27 mm2 ball-grid array package with 256 I/Os, and will be manufactured at the company's fab in Burlington, Vt. Samples of the 400-MHz, 500-MHz, and 600-MHz versions of the 750CXe are available immediately, and the company will ramp production in April. The 700-MHz version is scheduled to sample in May. Pricing in 10,000s is $57 each for 400-MHz device, $93.75 for the 500-MHz and $143.75 for the 600-MHz.