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Linley Wire

NetLogic Previews 28nm XLP

September 7, 2011

Author: Linley Gwennap

NetLogic Microsystems announced today that it plans to move its XLP processor into 28nm technology, with the first products sampling in 1Q12, according to the company. The next-generation manufacturing process will enable the company to increase the number of CPUs from 8 in the current 40nm XLP to a maximum of 20 in the forthcoming XLP II family. NetLogic has set a clock-speed target of 2.5GHz for the 28nm parts, 25% faster than the target for the current XLP. With the increase in both clock speed and core count, the XLP II is rated at 100Gbps of packet-processing throughput; the company did not specify the type of processing that can be performed at this rate.

Like the XLP, the new processors will support multisocket cache-coherent implementations using proprietary chip-to-chip interfaces called ICI. The XLP II will add a fourth ICI port, enabling designs with eight processor chips and 160 CPUs working together in a single coherent memory model. This coherent model simplifies programming, eliminating the need for software pipelining or other forms of partitioning. No competing processor vendor provides scalability to this level of performance.

In most other ways, the new processors will be similar to the existing XLP, which features a four-way superscalar CPU with simultaneous multithreading and a variety of accelerators, including encryption, reg-ex, compression, de-duplication, TCP, and RAID engines. To support the additional CPUs, the XLP II will increase the size of the on-chip caches and support the latest DDR3 memory speeds. The company did not disclose details such as power dissipation or pricing for the next-generation products.

Unlike most processor vendors, NetLogic has extensive experience with 28nm technology. The company has already developed multiple products, including 10G Ethernet PHYs and search coprocessors, in TSMC’s 28nm HP technology. This experience should ease the development of the XLP II, which we assume uses the same process. Freescale has also announced plans to sample its first 28nm processor, the T4240, in 1Q12. Thus, the two companies are in a horserace to deliver the first 28nm multicore processor.

The XLP II offers impressive specifications that should keep it at the forefront of performance. By extending its unique multisocket scalability, the new processor will be particularly well suited to extremely demanding applications. A more complete analysis, however, must await a full disclosure of the product’s details.

NetLogic will disclose additional details of the XLP II architecture at the Linley Tech Processor Conference on October 5–6. For more information on this event, access http://www.linleygroup.com/events/event.php?num=10