Last month Santa Clara was the scene for the US edition of the Imagination Summit, a yearly series of events where we invite members of our ecosystem to attend a series of keynotes and presentations where they can find out more about our technologies and many of the market segments we operate in.
Our list of distinguished speakers included Dan Artusi, CEO of Lantiq who gave a very personal account of how the company he manages started investing in MIPS. Lantiq has been a loyal user of MIPS; the company has been licensing MIPS CPUs since early 2000 and has been shipping comms processors in large volumes (over 200 million chips sold to date). In a market worth billions of dollars, Lantiq has been specializing in advanced, power-efficient processors targeting telecoms, broadband CPE and routers, IoT, home gateways, and many more.
Since the start of the decade, broadband gateways have been rapidly evolving from simple modems to complex home networking hubs that must support new functionality and features. Some of us still might remember the days we used to connect a DSL modem to a router; however, those days are quickly coming to an end. There are now a host of new services that have to run on home gateways and which influence the role of broadband gateways for connected homes:
- Multi-gigabit traffic: this is where it all started; having a home gateway that supports high-speed traffic is absolutely mandatory for next generation devices. An example is the emergence of NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices, which consumers are using to build private clouds able to stream high resolution videos and images.
- More complex services in the home: we have gone from having one or two connected PCs or laptops to at least five devices connected simultaneously to the home gateway. Each device has different characteristics (some are mobile, others are wired) but all can consume significant amounts of data, including multimedia, sensor, security and surveillance, web pages, etc.
- Higher QoS requirements: a number of services are absolutely critical and need to be always given top priority. Smart homes are rapidly becoming a reality so having a comms processor that is able to handle tens to hundreds of tasks in real-time will soon be a requirement of feature-rich home gateways.
- Multiple IP multimedia streams: several companies are already transforming standard broadcasting streams into IP-based services.
Innovations in networking: Why MIPS CPUs inspire Lantiq
To address these challenges, Lantiq uses a clever combination of MIPS CPUs and a smart packet processing engine to deliver superior performance that maximizes the usage of CPUs. This enables MIPS-based Lantiq processors to deliver a throughput of 0.1 MHz per Mbps. To achieve the same throughput, solutions using competing CPUs need to ramp up to 2MHz per Mbps, leading to a significant increase in power consumption which affects overall system efficiency.
This is because networking processing is not all about achieving higher and higher GHz numbers, but about making clever use of the CPU architecture and leveraging available resources correctly.
By using a multi-threaded MIPS CPU, Lantiq comms processors can support two or more virtual machines: one can run Linux while the other can run a real-time application like V.VoIP (Video and Voice over IP). A multi-threaded MIPS CPU is the ideal solution for networking and comms processing; multithreading offers context switching for free and delivers numerous advantages for software development and acceleration. MIPS CPUs are the only licensable IP processors that implement multithreading – and we have a proud tradition of championing this technology across a range of applications.
Furthermore, Lantiq comms processors don’t require a dedicated DSP engine since off-the-shelf MIPS CPUs already offer a number of DSP extensions that can be used for voice processing. This dramatically reduces costs and overall software complexity, since the main processor already includes high-performance signal processing instructions that developers can use easily.
Finally, MIPS CPUs achieve best in class power efficiency. This is a very important feature since multiple operators have agreed to a Code of Conduct which imposes caps on power consumption for networking equipment. Because MIPS is a pure, elegant RISC CPU architecture, comms processors such as the Lantiq xRX200 and xRX300 families can achieve among the lowest power consumption possible for gateway solutions.
Having a robust CPU architecture like MIPS inside a comms processor enables companies to provide high performance at lower frequencies and power and incorporate new features through firmware upgrades. MIPS is highly customizable and a versatile IP processor which has helped networking vendors tailor the size, power and speed of our CPU IP core according to their specific application requirements.
If you want to learn more about Lantiq and the range of MIPS-based solutions the company offers, visit their website and follow them on Twitter (@Lantiq). For more news on MIPS and our ecosystem, keep coming back to our blog and follow us on Twitter (@ImaginationPR, @MIPSGuru).