Semiconductor Startups Happen Here

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Power.orgOver the last few months there has been a lot of debate regarding x86 vs. ARM, be in on the servers side or the mobile side. There were many rumors and speculations about when major manufacturer might bring ARM based servers to market first. With nothing concrete materializing, the focus then shifted to startups: First, with SeaMicro out of Santa Clara, CA unveiling a 512-way Atom-based server in mid June. Just a month later an Austin, TX based startup named Smooth-Stone announced that the company secured $48 million in funding in order to develop ARM based servers to the market. With all this x86 vs. ARM talk, it is really not surprising that the PowerPC guys via decided to go on the offensive – after all, with many companies in their camp and a roadmap offering a large variety of processors and solutions, they rightly belong in the conversation as well.

Most recently, the alliance released their updated Power Architecture 2010 Roadmap presentation. The presentation is rather high-level, listing all the corporate members and the usual target markets: consumer, automotive and industrial, high-performance computing, general compute, and communications. Without any accompanying explanation, the actual silicon roadmap shown below is nothing more than a pretty bar chart.

Power Architecture 2010 Roadmap

Thankfully, the guys at the Microprocessor Report (MPR) recently published an article titled “PowerPC Covers the Highs and Lows” which can be viewed without a subscription courtesy of Not only does this article give a brief history review of the RISC architecture evolution, but it steps through the most recently released roadmap on a company by company basis, briefly discussing some of the newer solution each has to offer. Further, it touches on the licensing differences between MIPS, ARM, and PowerPC and how this translates into the marketplace: explaining for example why there are so few original PowerPC and ARM designers, as opposed to original MIPS designers. A brief and concise read, but on point most of the time and worth a look for sure – if solely for making sense of the published roadmap.

It is not a secret that as of late the PowerPC architecture has found most success in the communication and automotive sectors. And as such, another article recently published by Fawzi Behmann, the Director of Marketing for, titled “Power Architecture Enabled Differentiated Solution for LTE” tries to make the point as to why the Power architecture is optimal for this space. Personally, I found the article somewhat lacking on the Power architecture side, but at least several of the growth and adoption statistics regarding Long Term Evolution (LTE) where interesting – particularly the number of operators, namely 110, in  48 countries, that have committed to LTE. Many of which will deploy the technology in the 2011 timeframe. A far more interesting presentation was given by Fawzi at the end of 2009 at the Asia Power Architecture Conference Series titled “Power Architecture Differentiation.” It has more detail and several accompanying visuals that make it a much more interesting read.

Will all of this help make the Power architecture more of a conversation topic? Only time will tell. The alliance consists of several very established members and the product mix they offer together is a very comprehensive one. However, for now the guys at MPR sum it up best: “PowerPC straddles both worlds quite successfully, covering the high end and the low end. It’s a shame that it has no mainstream PC or desktop computer to call its town, but powering the world’s fastest supercomputers should be consolation enough.”

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