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Alibaba Looks to C-Sky for CPU IP

August 21, 2018

Author: Mike Demler

Until recently, when web-giant Alibaba announced its plan to acquire C-Sky, few industry observers outside of China even knew the intellectual-property (IP) supplier existed. But since its founding in 2001, C-Sky has been quietly designing 32-bit embedded CPUs, compiling a customer list that contains 70 licensees—including its new parent. By the end of 2016, it counted shipments of more than 700 million SoCs based on its architecture.

C-Sky initially developed CPUs based on Motorola’s M-Core RISC ISA, using a license the Chinese government had acquired. Its initial product was the CK510 CPU, which won its first design at Hangzhou Nationalchip (also founded in 2001). Hangzhou worked with the IP vendor to develop an SoC for set-top boxes and digital TVs. In 2009, C-Sky began designing CPUs using its own ISA. Like M-Core, this ISA enables high code density in low-cost microcontrollers, executing both 16- and 32-bit instructions.

The latest v2 ISA has DSP and floating-point extensions. C-Sky uses the compact version in its microcontroller cores, which include the CK801, CK802, and CK803S. The extended version powers its application CPUs: the CK807, CK810, and CK860. The company also offers more-complete SoC-design platforms; they come with CPUs that employ industry-standard Arm Amba and APB buses to connect with analog components, clock generators, crypto accelerators, standard I/Os, and storage subsystems.

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