Ruminations on the electronics industry from David Manners, Senior Components Editor on Electronics Weekly.
ARM’s Push Into Network Infrastructure
Mindspeed, which bought picoChip earlier this year, is the foremost vehicle for getting ARM into networking infrastructure.
As the infrastructure smarts move to the edge of the network (i.e. the box in your home or office) ARM-based SOC is the best way to deliver switching, WiFi, routing, VOIP, on-line gaming, security, fibre access and all the rest of it.
Mindspeed’s latest SOCs for delivering all this are a couple of SOCs called Concerto – one with a single ARM Cortex A9, the other with a brace of them. They support Gbit Ethernet in, Gbit Ethernet out and 802.11ac when it comes along. They’re sampling now and customers are building product round them.
“It’s an all-out attack on the old generation of generation processors,” says Mindspeed’s vp for strategic marketing (formerly picoChip’s vp for strategic marketing) Rupert Baines, “it’s important for Mindspeed because it’s a billion dollar market. It’s dominated by Power PC and MIPS, so this is ARM’s big push into network processing.”
Other companies using ARM cores to do this are LSI Logic and Cortina. But Mindspeed’s dual Cortex A9s working at 1.2GHz deliver the highest performance SOC.
“Areas where we were getting success at picoChip were wireless SOCs using ARM + ASIC, moving to ARM + ASIC + CEVA,” explains Baines, “picoChip were strong in 3G wireless ICs for infrastructure equipment and were doing good stuff in LTE for next generation infrastructure. The problem was finding the resources for next generation development.”
“Mindspeed had the best silicon platform but had nothing in 3G,” adds Baines, “picoChip had a leadership position in 3G infrastructure ICs and a leading position in 4G – it’s the only chip company which can do 3G and 4G for infrastructure.”
Mindspeed a spin-off from Conexant, the former Rockwell Semiconductor, makes ICs for telecoms infrastructure – both wireline and wireless – modem ICs, VOIP, high performance analogue, broadcast video, ICs for fibre networks.
The company had revenues of $160m in 2011 – $60m for high performance analogue; $60m for VOIP and CPE (Customer premise Equipment); and $40m in WAM and Wireless.
“In the next generation infrastructure market we want to be No.1,” says Baines, “IP is pushing everything to the edge of the network and Concerto is something which does that. We’re doing all the smart stuff at the edge.”
Why? “Because you can make it faster, more responsive and more economical,” responds Baines.
And that’s what made the PC industry as successful as it has been these last 30 years.
Tags: arm cores, dollar market, generation development, line gaming, network infrastructure