| Order a report

A Guide to Embedded Processors

Tenth Edition

Published April 2017

Authors: Jag Bolaria and Tom R. Halfhill

Single License: $4,495 (single copy, one user)
Corporate License: $5,995

Ordering Information



Get the Facts Quickly

"A Guide to Embedded Processors" provides an in-depth look at 32- and 64-bit high-speed embedded processors with one to four CPU cores. This completely revised report from The Linley Group contains about 300 pages of information on AMD, Broadcom (Avago), Cavium, NXP (Freescale), Intel (including Altera and Axxia), Macom, Marvell, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and Xilinx.

The report focuses on general-purpose RISC and x86 processors that have one to four CPU cores running at 600MHz or more, excluding specialized architectures (e.g. DSPs, NPUs). Note: some previous editions of this report covered all processors in this category, but this one focuses on chips with four or fewer CPU cores. We cover 32- and 64-bit embedded processors with four or more cores in another report, "A Guide to Multicore Processors."

"A Guide to Embedded Processors" covers Macom’s Helix ARMv8-compatible processors; AMD’s Embedded R-Series processors and G-Series processors; Intel’s embedded Atom, Core, and Xeon processors; Intel's former Altera SoC FPGAs and LSI Axxia processors; Cavium’s Octeon TX and Octeon III processors; Broadcom’s StrataGX, BCM4908, and XLP-II processors; Marvell’s Armada and MoChi processors; Texas Instruments’ Sitara processors; Xilinx Zynq APSoC and MPSoC processors; and other products.

This handy guide, packed with valuable information, brings you up-to-date on the newest developments in this important market and gives you the analysis you need to help choose a supplier or partner in this field. In addition to networking, the report discusses processors that can be used in high-end consumer applications and printers. It also provides market share and market size data for the embedded segments covered.

"A Guide to Embedded Processors" begins with tutorials on the key technologies implemented by these products, background on the embedded market, and a discussion of the newest technology and market trends. Following these introductory chapters, the report delivers thorough coverage of all announced products in this area. For each major vendor, the report examines the performance, features, and architecture of each product, highlighting strengths and weaknesses in a consistent, easy-to-compare fashion. The report concludes with our own comparisons of these products and conclusions about which will fare best.

What's New in This Edition

Updates to the 10th Edition of "A Guide to Embedded Processors"

"A Guide to Embedded Processors" has been updated to incorporate new announcements made since the publication of the previous edition.

  • NXP has introduced new QorIQ LS1-series processors with ARM CPU cores and the first LA-series ARM processor.
  • Intel has acquired Altera's SoC FPGAs and has introduced new x86-based embedded processors manufactured with 14nm FinFET technology.
  • Among Intel's new products are Goldmont-based Atom processors (Apollo Lake) and Kaby Lake Xeon and Core processors.
  • Cavium has introduced new ARMv8-compatible Octeon TX processors.
  • Texas Instruments has new ARM-based Sitara processors with integrated DSPs and GPUs.
  • Xilinx has new MPSoCs with embedded ARM Cortex-A53 cores.
  • Broadcom has introduced its first 64-bit StrataGX processors with Cortex-A57 cores and the 64-bit BCM4908 with Cortex-A53.
  • Marvell has new 64-bit Armada processors using its modular chip (MoChi) architecture as well as the AP806 MoChi processor using ARM Cortex-A53 and A72, respectively.
  • AMD has introduced its third generation of G series and R series embedded processors. The company has disclosed the new Zen CPU core and will soon roll out the first Zen-based embedded processors.
  • 2015-2016 market-size and vendor-share data
  • Updated market forecast through 2021

The simplest definition of embedded processor is a microprocessor for systems other than computers. This report focuses on general-purpose processors with one to four CPUs running at 800MHz or greater. Primary applications include communications and “PC-like” uses. At one end of the scale, communications includes low-cost, low-power systems for home networking, such as Wi Fi routers. At the other end, it includes control-plane processors for service-provider routers. PC-like uses also span a wide gamut, comprising industrial controls, interactive kiosks, digital signs, casino games, and network-attached storage (NAS).

This report analyzes the products, capabilities, and strategies of each vendor to determine which offerings are best suited to each embedded application and which vendors are most likely to succeed. We have researched the offerings from major vendors to gather in one place the information designers need to shorten the list. Among our conclusions are the following:

  • Intel remains the leading supplier of embedded processors; we estimate it captured a 48% market share by revenue in 2016. Although processors for PC-like systems account for most of this revenue, the company has been introducing more SoCs for communications. Intel’s newest CPU, Kaby Lake, appears in embedded Core and Xeon E3v6 processors. Atom SoCs generally offer better integration, but the company is only starting to upgrade this family to its newest Goldmont CPU. The 2015 Altera acquisition opens new markets and presents interesting possibilities for new products that integrate ARM and x86 CPUs with FPGAs.
  • NXP (by acquiring Freescale) has become the second-largest supplier of embedded processors for communications. It is currently managing a transition from its QorIQ T-series chips (Power Architecture) to its LS-series chips (ARM). NXP’s challenge is to manage this transition without losing customers or market share — while also preparing for a pending acquisition by Qualcomm that’s expected to close in 2H17.
  • Qualcomm’s purchase of NXP will make it the second-largest semi-conductor vendor after Intel. This major consolidation will unite their complementary strengths in processor design and in wired and wire-less communications.
  • Broadcom has weathered major changes since its 2016 acquisition by Avago. The MIPS64-compatible XLP family is reaching the end of the line, and the company is now focusing on the ARM-based StrataGX family. New products, including the first 64-bit StrataGX chips, bol-ster its offerings.
  • AMD has made little progress with its embedded products in recent years. After an unsuccessful fling with a few ARM-based chips, the company is refocusing on its x86 processors. The new Zen CPU core shows great promise in PC and server processors but has yet to ap-pear in embedded products. Meanwhile, the Embedded R-Series and G-Series SoCs must hold the fort.
  • Cavium has introduced its ARMv8-compatible Octeon TX family, which supplements its MIPS64-compatible Octeon III family. The new ARM chips compete well against those from other ARM vendors, particularly NXP and Broadcom.
  • Macom acquired AppliedMicro in early 2017 but plans to divest the processor business by midyear. Although AppliedMicro was the first to introduce ARMv8-compatible processors, this divestiture creates uncertainty that must be resolved before the products can move forward.
  • Marvell’s MoChi (modular chip) family is expanding the Armada portfolio and winning 64-bit ARM designs. We estimate the company’s embedded-processor revenue rose by 11.5% in 2016—a big jump that moves its revenue closer to AMD’s.
  • Texas Instruments continues to expand its ARM-based Sitara family and distinguishes itself from other vendors by adding powerful DSP cores, real-time controller cores, and other features optimized for industrial, medical, and military/aerospace systems.
  • Xilinx faces tougher competition after Intel’s 2015 acquisition of Altera. To counter Intel’s advantages, the new Xilinx UltraScale+ SoCs add innovative capabilities, such as ARM real-time controller cores, ARM Mali GPUs, and video acceleration to supplement their 64-bit ARM CPUs. Xilinx pioneered this product category but must work hard to sustain its early lead.

The industry’s transition to ARM and numerous company mergers remain major disruptions. These changes put more pressure on customers to choose the right vendor and make design decisions that avoid early obsolescence.

List of Figures
List of Tables
About the Authors
About the Publisher
Preface
Executive Summary
1. Processor Technology
Processor Basics
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
Caches
MMUs and TLBs
Bus Bandwidth
CPU Microarchitecture
RISC vs. CISC
Endianness
Scalar and Superscalar
Instruction Reordering
Pipelining and Penalties
Branch Prediction
Multicore Processors
Multithreading
Main Memory
DRAM Basics
DDR Versions
Memory Subsystems
I/O and Network Interfaces
Ethernet Interfaces
PCI and PCI Express
RapidIO
USB
SAS and SATA
2. Embedded Applications
Networking and Communications Equipment
Control Plane vs. Data Plane
Control-Plane Processing
Data-Plane Applications
Networked Storage and RAID Controllers
Security
Broadband Infrastructure
Cellular Base Stations
Consumer Electronics
Set-Top Boxes
Home Networking
IP Phones
IP Cameras
High-Speed Printers
PC-Like Applications
Industrial Control, Medical, and Military
3. Standard Instruction Sets
Architecture Comparison
Technology
Market Positions
x86 Instruction Set
Background
Initial Instruction Set
Modern Extensions
ARM Instruction Set
Background
Initial Instruction Set
Later Extensions
ARMv8 Architecture
ARMv8-M
Scalable Vector Extensions
MIPS Instruction Set
Background
Initial Instruction Set
Later Extensions
PowerPC Instruction Set
Background
Instruction Set
4. High-Speed Processors
What Is a High-Speed Embedded Processor?
What Is Not a High-Speed Embedded Processor
Common Characteristics
Standalone vs. Integrated Processors
Encryption Engines
RAID and Other Storage Engines
Packet-Processing Accelerators
Benchmarks
CPU Benchmarks
Security Performance
5. Technology and Market Trends
Technology Trends
Trend to ARM
Integration Trends
Software-Defined Functions
CPU Complexity Tradeoffs
Multicore Processors
Memory Access
Managing Power
Market Overview
Market Size by Vendor
Market Share by Application
Revenue Market Share by Instruction-Set Architecture
Market Forecast
6. AMD
Company Background
Key Features and Performance
Opteron 4300 Processors
Embedded R Series Processors
Embedded G Series Processors
Internal Architecture
Excavator CPU Core
Puma/Jaguar+ CPU Core
Embedded-Processor Technology
System Design
Embedded R Series Processors
Embedded G Series Processors
Development Tools
Product Roadmap
Conclusions
7. Broadcom
Company Background
Key Features and Performance
StrataGX Overview
32-Bit StrataGX Processors
64-Bit StrataGX Processors
BCM4908 (ARMv8)
XLP II Family (MIPS)
Internal Architecture
32-Bit StrataGX Processors
64-Bit StrataGX Processors
System Design
StrataGX Processors
BCM4908 Processor
Development Tools
Product Roadmap
Conclusions
8. Cavium
Company Background
Product Overview
Key Features and Performance
Octeon III Processors
Octeon TX Processors
Internal Architecture
Octeon III Architecture
Octeon TX Architecture
System Design
Development Tools
Product Roadmap
Conclusions
9. Intel
Company Background
Product Overview
Key Features and Performance
Xeon E3 Processors
Core i3, i5, and i7 Processors
Atom Processors
Atom C2000-Series Processors
Atom C3000-Series Processors
SoC FPGAs
Arria 10 SoC FPGAs
Stratix 10 SX SoC FPGAs
Stratix 10 TX and MX SoC FPGAs
Internal Architecture
Kaby Lake CPU
Skylake CPU
New Skylake Instructions
Intel Gen9 GPU
Atom CPUs
System Design
Atom-Based Systems
Development Tools
x86 Development
SoC-FPGA Development
Product Roadmap
High-Performance Processors
Atom
SoC FPGAs
Conclusions
10. Macom
Company Background
Key Features and Performance
Internal Architecture
System Design
Development Tools
Product Roadmap
Conclusions
11. Marvell
Company Background
Key Features and Performance
Low-Power Armada Processors
MoChi-Based Armada Networking Processors
Armada Storage Processors
Internal Architecture
Armada 3xx
Armada A3700
Armada MoChi Processors
System Design
Development Tools
Product Roadmap
Conclusions
12. NXP
Company Background
Key Features and Performance
QorIQ LS-Series Processors
QorIQ LS1-Series 32-Bit Processors
QorIQ LS1-Series 64-Bit Processors
QorIQ LA-Series Processors
QorIQ T-Series Processors
QorIQ T1-Series Processors
QorIQ T2-Series Processors
Internal Architecture
ARM Cortex-A7 CPU
ARM Cortex-A53 CPU
ARM Cortex-A72 CPU
Power e5500 CPU
Power e6500 CPU
Security Engines
Quicc Engine
QorIQ Packet-Processing Acceleration
Layerscape Chip Architecture
QorIQ Layerscape Secure Platform
System Design
System Interfaces
Application Examples
Development Tools
Product Roadmap
Conclusions
13. Qualcomm
Company Background
Key Features and Performance
IPQ8074 Integrated Wi-Fi Processor
New IPQ80xx 32-Bit Processors
IPQ8064 and IPQ8062 Processors
IPQ40xx Wi-Fi Processors
Internal Architecture
Product Roadmap
Conclusions
14. Texas Instruments
Company Background
Key Features and Performance
Sitara AM437x Processors
Sitara AM57x Processors
KeyStone-Based Sitara SoCs and C6000 DSPs
Internal Architecture
ARM Cortex-A15 CPU
TI C66x DSP
System Design
Development Tools
Product Roadmap
Conclusions
15. Xilinx
Company Background
Key Features and Performance
Zynq-7000 APSoCs
Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoCs
Development Tools
Product Roadmap
Conclusions
16. Processor Comparisons
Sub-3W Processors for Networking
3–6W Processors for Networking
6–15W Processors for Networking
6–12W Processors With Graphics
15–55W Processors for Networking
25–40W Processors for PC-Like Platforms
Processors with Programmable Logic
FPGAs With 32-Bit Processors
FPGAs With 64-Bit Processors
17. Conclusions
Market Trends
Embedded-Processor Applications
Market Environment
Technology Trends
Vendor Outlook
Intel
NXP (Qualcomm)
Broadcom
Cavium
AMD
Other Processor Vendors
Appendix: Further Reading
Index
Figure 1-1. Basic processor design.
Figure 1-2. Simple superscalar processor design.
Figure 1-3. CPU pipelining examples.
Figure 1-4. Generic multicore processor.
Figure 1-5. Interleaved tasks on a multithreaded CPU.
Figure 1-6. DRAM evolution.
Figure 2-1. The control plane and the data plane.
Figure 4-1. Standalone and integrated general-purpose processors.
Figure 4-2. Typical curve of IPSec performance versus packet size.
Figure 5-1. Worldwide revenue market share of the top seven vendors of embedded pro¬cessors, 2015–2016.
Figure 5-2. Worldwide revenue market share of the top six vendors of embedded processors for communications, 2015–2016.
Figure 5-3. Worldwide revenue market share of the top five vendors of embedded processors for storage, 2015–2016.
Figure 5-4. Worldwide revenue market share of the top four vendors of embed¬ded processors for other applications, 2015–2016.
Figure 5-5. Worldwide revenue market share of embedded processors by CPU architec¬ture, 2015–2016.
Figure 5-6. Worldwide revenue of embedded processors by application, 2016–2021.
Figure 5-7. Worldwide revenue of embedded microprocessors by communica¬tions segment, 2016–2021.
Figure 6-1. Block diagram of AMD Excavator CPU.
Figure 6-2. Quad-core compute unit based on Jaguar.
Figure 6-3. Block diagram of Jaguar microarchitecture.
Figure 6-4. Block diagram of AMD Embedded R Series RX-421BD SoC.
Figure 6-5. Block diagram of AMD Embedded G Series I/J-family SoC.
Figure 6-6. AMD R Series evaluation platform.
Figure 7-1. Broadcom 32-bit StrataGX family.
Figure 7-2. Broadcom XLP II family.
Figure 7-3. Block diagram of Broadcom StrataGX BCM58535 processor.
Figure 7-4. Block diagram of ARM Cortex-A57 CPU.
Figure 7-5. Broadcom StrataGX BCM58713 in a virtual appliance.
Figure 7-6. Broadcom BCM4908 in an 802.11ac Wave 2 router.
Figure 8-1. Cavium Octeon III and Octeon TX families.
Figure 8-2. Block diagram of Cavium Octeon III CN71xx.
Figure 8-3. Block diagram of Cavium Octeon TX CN8130.
Figure 8-4. Integrated network appliance based on Cavium Octeon III.
Figure 8-5. Octeon TX in an IoT gateway.
Figure 9-1. Simplified block diagram of Skylake microarchitecture.
Figure 9-2. Block diagram of Kaby Lake system architecture.
Figure 9-3. Block diagram of Goldmont CPU microarchitecture.
Figure 9-4. Block diagram of Atom Rangeley platform.
Figure 10-1. Block diagram of AppliedMicro Potenza CPU.
Figure 10-2. Block diagram of AppliedMicro Helix 2 processor.
Figure 10-3. Block diagram of a gateway based on AppliedMicro Helix 2.
Figure 11-1. Block diagram of Marvell Armada 385 processor.
Figure 11-2. Block diagram of Marvell Armada 8040 processor.
Figure 11-3. Wi-Fi router based on Armada 8040 processor.
Figure 11-4. Armada A3700 in a consumer NAS box.
Figure 12-1. NXP QorIQ LS-series processors.
Figure 12-2. NXP QorIQ T-series processors.
Figure 12-3. Block diagram of ARM Cortex-A53 instruction pipeline.
Figure 12-4. Block diagram of ARM Cortex-A72 microarchitecture.
Figure 12-5. QorIQ Layerscape Secure Platform.
Figure 12-6. Multifunction printer based on NXP QorIQ LS1021A.
Figure 12-7. Internet gateway based on NXP QorIQ LS1046A or LS1026A.
Figure 12-8. NXP LS1012A development platform.
Figure 12-9. NXP VortiQa Network Security Suite.
Figure 13-1. Block diagram of Qualcomm Krait microarchitecture.
Figure 14-1. Block diagram of Texas Instruments C66x DSP.
Figure 14-2. Block diagram of a Sitara-based portable data terminal.
Table 2-1. Single-board-computer standards.
Table 5-1. Revenue of the top seven vendors of embedded microprocessors.
Table 5-2. Worldwide revenue of the top six vendors of embedded processors for communications.
Table 5-3. Worldwide revenue of the top five vendors of embedded processors for storage.
Table 5-4. Worldwide revenue of the top four vendors of embedded processors for other applications.
Table 5-5. Worldwide revenue of embedded processors by application, 2016–2021.
Table 5-6. Worldwide revenue of embedded microprocessors by communications segment, 2016–2021.
Table 6-1. Key parameters for AMD embedded Opteron 4300 processors.
Table 6-2. Key parameters for AMD R-Series processors.
Table 6-3. Key parameters for AMD Embedded G-Series processors.
Table 6-4. Key parameters for AMD embedded LX family processors.
Table 6-5. Key parameters for AMD embedded I- and J-family processors.
Table 7-1. Key parameters for Broadcom StrataGX BCM530xx processors.
Table 7-2. Key parameters for Broadcom StrataGX BCM585xx, BCM586xx.
Table 7-3. Key parameters for Broadcom StrataGX BCM583xx processors.
Table 7-4. Key parameters for Broadcom StrataGX BCM5871x processors.
Table 7-5. Key parameters for Broadcom BCM4908 processor.
Table 8-1. Key parameters for Cavium Octeon III CN70xx and CN71xx.
Table 8-2. Key parameters for Cavium Octeon TX CN80xx and CN81xx.
Table 9-1. Intel code-names and product numbers.
Table 9-2. Selected Intel embedded processors with four or fewer CPUs.
Table 9-3. Key parameters for Intel Xeon E3 and Pentium processors.
Table 9-4. Key parameters for selected Intel Core i3 embedded processors.
Table 9-5. Key parameters for selected Intel Core i5 embedded processors.
Table 9-6. Key parameters for selected Intel Core i7 embedded processors.
Table 9-7. Key parameters for Intel Atom E3900 and Atom C2000.
Table 9-8. Key parameters for midrange Intel Arria 10 SoC FPGAs.
Table 9-9. Key parameters for Intel Stratix 10 SX SoC FPGAs.
Table 9-10. Key parameters for Stratix 10 TX and MX SoC FPGAs.
Table 9-11. Comparison of Intel CPU-microarchitecture resources.
Table 9-12. Chipsets for Xeon and Core processors.
Table 10-1. Key parameters for AppliedMicro Helix 2 processors.
Table 11-1. Key parameters for Marvell Armada processors.
Table 11-2. Key parameters for Marvell Armada processors based on MoChi AP806.
Table 11-3. Key parameters for Marvell Armada storage processors based on MoChi AP806 module.
Table 12-1. Key parameters for NXP QorIQ LS1-series 32-bit processors.
Table 12-2. Key parameters for NXP QorIQ LS1-series 64-bit processors.
Table 12-3. Key parameters for NXP QorIQ LS10x3A 64-bit processors.
Table 12-4. Key parameters for QorIQ T1020, T1022, T1040, and T1042.
Table 12-5. Key parameters for QorIQ T1013, T1023, T1014, and T1024.
Table 12-6. Key parameters for QorIQ T2-series processors.
Table 12-7. Performance of SEC 5.3 security engine.
Table 13-1. Key parameters for Qualcomm IPQ80xx processors.
Table 13-2. Key parameters for Qualcomm IPQ8064 and IPQ8062.
Table 13-3. Key parameters for Qualcomm IPQ40xx processors.
Table 14-1. Key parameters for Texas Instruments Sitara AM437x.
Table 14-2. Key parameters for Texas Instruments Sitara AM57x.
Table 14-3. Key parameters for Texas Instruments KeyStone-based embedded processors.
Table 14-4. Key parameters for Texas Instruments 66AK2G0x processors.
Table 15-1. Key parameters for selected Xilinx Zynq-7000 APSoCs.
Table 15-2. Key parameters for Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoCs.
Table 16-1. Comparison of selected sub-3W processors.
Table 16-2. Comparison of selected 3–6W processors.
Table 16-3. Comparison of selected 6–15W processors for networking.
Table 16-4. Comparison of selected 6–12W processors with graphics.
Table 16-5. Comparison of selected 15–55W processors for networking.

Events

Linley Processor Conference 2017
Covers processors and IP cores used in deep learning, embedded, communications, automotive, IoT, and server designs.
October 4 - 5, 2017
Hyatt Regency, Santa Clara, CA
Register Now!
More Events »

Newsletter

Linley Newsletter
Analysis of new developments in microprocessors and other semiconductor products
Subscribe to our Newsletter »