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XLP980 Boasts 20 Cores

June 18, 2013

Author: Tom R. Halfhill

Broadcom is sampling its biggest XLP II processor, the XLP980, delivering unprecedented performance for an embedded processor. Sporting 20 CPU cores running at 2.0GHz, as well as 80 threads, four 40 Gigabit Ethernet ports, and impressive networking acceleration, the XLP980 can sustain throughputs up to 160Gbps. Moreover, a special interchip interface can unite a maximum of eight processors in a cache-coherent cluster whose total throughput is 1.28 terabits per second (Tbps).

The XLP980 will compete with top-rank processors from Cavium and Freescale for high-end control- and data-plane applications—mainly in core routers, universal-services blades, security appliances, LTE gateways, and radio network controllers. With its cryptographic engines, regular-expression (reg-ex) acceleration, RAID acceleration, packet accelerators, and compression engines, it can manage routing, switching, security processing, load balancing, and cloud storage. New virtualization features open doors into data-center processing.

Few processors aspire to this level of performance, and only two competitors will have similar chips in production by 4Q13, when we expect the XLP980 to ship in volume. One competitor is Cavium, whose 32-core Octeon II CN6880 has been available since 1Q12—but that chip has only 32 threads and runs at 1.5GHz. Another competitor is Freescale, whose QorIQ T4240 is the biggest processor in its next-generation T-series family. The T4240, however, has only 12 CPU cores with 24 threads running at 1.8GHz. Neither rival can gluelessly connect multiple chips in a coherent cluster.

Cavium and Tilera have next-generation processors on the way, but they won’t reach volume production this year. Intel’s embedded processors are swift but can’t match the XLP980’s massive multithreading and integrated networking acceleration. Thus, Broadcom has an opportunity to snatch some high-end design wins before the other horses leave the starting gate.

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