National Semiconductor Breaks New Ground with High-Performance, Low-Power System Architecture Dedicated to Information Appliances
Industry's First Architecture Optimized for IAs Further Improves Performance, Power Consumption and Design Efficiency
Santa Clara, CA --
Ushering in the next-generation information appliances, National Semiconductor (NYSE:NSM) today introduced a new Geode™ technology at the Embedded Processor Forum (June 11-15) in San Jose. This new system architecture, the industry's first designed and optimized for information appliance (IA) systems, will enable unprecedented performance, low power consumption and enhanced streaming multimedia.
In addition to offering performance and power benefits, the GeodeLink™ architecture will improve silicon design productivity and time-to-market by enabling a modular reusable design methodology and quick integration of the latest silicon intellectual property (IP). Future products based on the architecture will maintain software compatibility with National's current market leading integrated processors for information appliances.
"National's GeodeLink architecture provides a unique twist for the use of an x86 processor in the information appliance market. What they've developed will improve performance and efficiency for a new breed of products," said Markus Levy, senior analyst of MicroDesign Resources, a leading analyst firm for the microprocessor industry. "Their new technology should strengthen the company's position in providing highly integrated system solutions for
the information appliance market."
The GeodeLink architecture is the latest development of National's proven Geode x86-based technology targeting thin clients, set-top boxes, personal Internet access devices and residential gateways. Breaking away from traditional design methodologies to improve efficiency, it is specifically designed to tackle the power and performance bottlenecks of today's Internet access devices.
"This technological breakthrough is National's answer to the escalating requirements of the information appliance market. The GeodeLink architecture will make future information appliances more powerful in performance, more power-efficient, richer in features and more affordable," said Mike Polacek, vice president of information appliance division at National Semiconductor. "Customers will be able to apply products based on the GeodeLink architecture in very exciting multimedia-intensive applications that provide users with an enriched Internet experience."
New Architecture Optimizes Performance and Power
National has employed many performance-boosting and power-saving techniques in the development of the GeodeLink architecture, including optimized unified memory architecture (UMA), distributed switched fabric interconnect, and active hardware power management (AHPM). Optimized UMA enables microprocessors to achieve optimal performance with up to 2GB/s memory bandwidth while lowering overall system cost by using only one memory interface. The memory controller supports 32 and 64 bits at 133 MHz SDRAM and 266 MHz DDR-SDRAM, respectively, making the GeodeLink technology the highest performance solution in the market for information appliances for the foreseeable future.
The GeodeLink technology's capability to enable high performance is coupled with its intense attention given to power efficiency. Using hardware to actively monitor the system and adjust clocking as necessary, AHPM allows designers to take advantage of power management immediately with minimum software work. Additionally, power management events are handled using system management mode. This software layer lies beneath and is independent of the operating system.
IP Reusability Speeds Design and Time-to-Market
Key features of the GeodeLink architecture include on-chip support for microprocessors and high performance peripherals. This architecture provides software reusability via a virtual PCI approach. This allows legacy PCI drivers developed for discrete components to function seamlessly when the IP is integrated onto a single chip.
The GeodeLink architecture impacts design methodology at every level: RTL design, hardware/software development, layout and test. Reducing the risk of adding or deleting IP and efficiently de-coupling of IP development allow National to more quickly develop and verify new products based on market and customer needs.
Furthermore, the new architecture's on-chip development support allows customers to more easily debug software on the highly integrated solutions. The GeodeLink architecture provides in-circuit emulation, branch trace messaging and other advanced development features.
National announced last April that it had licensed TriMedia's TM32A media processor core for advanced digital consumer products. Because the GeodeLink architecture enables efficient integration of external IP, the TriMedia core will be integrated into National's Geode processors via the GeodeLink architecture. The new architecture will enable software reuse for existing TriMedia drivers and codecs as well as an efficient UMA implementation, reducing time-to-market, cost and total system power.
National plans to ship samples of high performance, low-power products based on the GeodeLink architecture in the third quarter of 2001 with volume production in the first half of 2002.
About National Semiconductor
National Semiconductor is the premier analog company driving the information age. Combining real-world analog and state-of-the-art digital technology, the company is focused on the fast growing markets for wireless handsets; information appliances; information infrastructure; and display, imaging and human interface technologies. With headquarters in Santa Clara, California, National reported sales of $2.1 billion for its last fiscal year and has about 10,000 employees worldwide.