EAST FISHKILL, N.Y. -- In a move to expand its ASIC offerings in fast-growing communications applications, IBM Corp. here today announced it will offer embedded DSP functions in 0.13-micron system-on-chip designs, based on the ZSP digital signal processor from LSI Logic Corp.
IBM plans to ship initial prototypes of ZSP-based ASICs to customers in the fourth quarter of 2001. Its new licensing pact with LSI Logic also allows IBM Microelectronics to use ZSP400 cores in development of standard products in the future.
For LSI Logic, the new licensing agreement with IBM adds a major ASIC supplier to its efforts to make the ZSP an open DSP architecture for the marketplace, said Giuseppe Staffaroni, executive vice president of the Broadband Communications division at LSI Logic. Until now, the Milpitas, Calif.-based company has inked ZSP licenses with fabless chip suppliers--Broadcom Corp., startup Brecis Communications Inc., and Virata Corp.
"With t his new license, we expect to increase accessibility to this technology for customers working on system-on-chip solutions," Staffaroni said. "This is a major part of proliferating ZSP technology in the market, and we believe it further validates our strategy to establish an open DSP architecture."
LSI Logic gained the DSP technology by acquiring ZSP Corp. in 1999, and it kicked off its open architecture campaign a year ago when it licensed the 200-MHz ZSP400 architecture to Irvine, Calif.-based Broadcom (see Jan. 17, 2000, story). The deal was followed with licensing pacts at San Jose-based Brecis Communications, which is focused on voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) products, and Virata in Santa Clara, Calif., which is targeting digital subscriber line (DSL) products.
The licensing pact with IBM includes the rights to the ZSP400 core, software development tools, and design verification systems. IBM is gearing up to offer the tec hnology in its most advanced 0.13-micron CMOS logic process, which include copper interconnects and low-k dielectric insulators, said Duncan Needler, manager of marketing for the Network Technology Custom Logic Business Line.
IBM decided to license the LSI Logic core because it needed to quickly implement a new digital signal processor offering into its Blue Logic ASIC library. "We did not have a committed DSP development program internally that was targeted at the general-purpose market with all of the associated industry tool support," explained Needler, who is based in Burlington, Vt. "At this point, we don't have the time to get that together to satisfy our tier one customers. We did extensive validation with our customers and the only one that presented itself most favorably as an open architecture was the ZSP."
IBM has made other efforts in DSP during recent years. In the 1990s, IBM developed its own DSP technology, called Mwave, and then in 1998, it rolled out a clone of the widely used TMS32 0C54X processor from Texas Instruments Inc. (see June 10, 1998, story). The C54x core remains in IBM's design library and is used by a few customers, but the LSI Logic ZSP core "presents a more comprehensive offering for us," explained Needler.
With LSI Logc's ZSP core, IBM plans to initially address system-on-chip (SoC) ASICs for wireless base station. "We are strong in that segment and the next stage is to take integration to the SoC [level]," he said. "We are currently providing I/O, a PowerPC processor, embedded memory, and some customer IP [intellectual property]. The DSP will further integrate functions for greater on-chip performance, lower cost and space savings."
"The embedded DSP market is just starting to open up with the 2.5 and 3G [third-generation wireless] applications, which are driving the next wave of integration for base station supplier," Needler added.
Both LSI Logic and IBM hope there backing of a common DSP architecture will encourage more customers to move to the ZSP and increase the availability of third-party tools for development. The two companies are not planning to provide second-sourcing production of ASIC designs, however. Customers will benefit from using common software code for cores produced by LSI Logic and IBM, said company officials.
"It is a pure license at this point [for core and associated tool sets]. We are committed to maintain cycle--per-cycle accuracy and instruction set compliance to make sure the architecture does not get out of hand," Needler said. "We are not really restricted beyond that to any usage."
IBM plans to provide design kits for ZSP-based ASICs in the second quarter, and customers are expected to receive the first hardware prototypes in the fourth quarter of 2001. "Within that time we will take the technology and do our best to tune it for maximum performance in our 0.13-micron Cu-11 process," Needler said.