Linley Wire: November 3, 2015

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Linley Wire
Volume 15, Issue 17
November 3, 2015

Independent Analysis of the Networking-Silicon Industry

Editor: Bob Wheeler
Contributor: Linley Gwennap, Loring Wirbel, and Bob Wheeler

In This Issue:

- Marvell MoChi Changes SoCs
- MoSys Gearbox Expands 100G Options
- EZchip Gives Mellanox Brains
- LoRa Alliance Drives Low-Power WAN

To read these articles on-line, click here

Coming Soon: A Guide to Network Processors

The Linley Group is pleased to announce the 16th Edition of "A Guide to Network Processors" by analysts Bob Wheeler and Loring Wirbel.

Long established in carrier equipment, network processors are increasingly addressing SDN and NFV applications in data centers. NPUs are also addressing new system architectures including smart top-of-rack switches and appliances using intelligent NICs (iNICs). A "Guide to Network Processors" provides a single comprehensive report covering NPUs spanning carrier and data-center applications. This edition also incorporates new quantitative market data, including preliminary 2015 NPU and search-coprocessor market shares, NPU segmentation by application, plus forecasts for merchant NPUs and search coprocessors through 2020.

Order by November 30 to get a $300 discount. For more information on this new edition, please visit our web site: or contact us at to order this new edition.

Marvell MoChi Changes SoCs
By Linley Gwennap

Seeking no less than a revolution in processor and system design, Marvell introduced its first MoChi chips at the Linley Processor Conference. The company’s modular-chip (MoChi) architecture dis-integrates the ubiquitous SoC into a set of discrete components connected by high-speed serial interfaces. The goal is to reduce time to market by allowing system designers to choose the functions they need rather than waiting for a chip vendor to provide the exact SoC they require. The processor vendor can then focus on designing the best individual components rather than on integrating various SoC permutations.

Marvell’s first announced MoChi products comprise the AP806, which is a quad-core Cortex-A72 processing module, and the Armada A3700, which combines two Cortex-A53 CPUs with common networking engines and I/O. These chips are configurable for a broad range of embedded applications, but initial targets include the consumer networking and storage devices that Marvell sells into today. The company is currently sampling both chips, with production expected in 3Q16.

Both products include MoChi interfaces for expansion. Although it declined to reveal details of other MoChi chips, Marvell is developing a broad catalog of components that it expects to reach production before the end of 2016. They include PCI Express 3.0, SATA III, 10G Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, and USB3 chips. The company is also developing MoChi Wi-Fi chips, likely based on its existing Avastar products. Marvell disclosed a packet-processing engine slated to operate at 10Gbps.

The A3700 allows customers to use ARMv8 in low-cost consumer devices while maintaining software compatibility with higher-performance processors. Marvell’s higher-performance product is the AP806. Offering four “big” Cortex-A72 cores, it will outperform the dual-A53 chip by 3x on many applications, thrusting Marvell into the midrange of the embedded market. The company is the first to announce an embedded processor based on ARM’s newest CPU.

Networking Report subscribers can access the full article here:

Mosys Gearbox Expands 100G Options
By Loring Wirbel

MoSys is making an aggressive move beyond first-generation gearboxes to support the Optical Internetworking Forum’s Multi-Link Gearbox (MLG) 1.0 and 2.0 standards. Its new LineSpeed MSH321 PHY multiplexes a variety of line rates and protocol types into ASICs using CAUI-4, whereas the new MSH221 is a 100Gbps retimer for modules.

When the company first entered the gearbox market with the MSH310, it joined a world of standard 10x10Gbps-to-4x25Gbps multiplexing, competing against products from AppliedMicro, Avago, Broadcom, and Inphi. Over the two intervening years, AppliedMicro has offered MLG devices, but Broadcom and Avago have opted for retimers. Inphi has moved to PAM4 products.

MoSys responded to AppliedMicro by jumping forward with the MSH321, which multiplexes 10Gbps and 40Gbps rates into a 100Gbps port. The MSH221, meanwhile, addresses competing retimers, integrating four full-duplex lanes (or eight channels) with independent 28Gbps line rates. It implements Reed-Solomon forward error correction (FEC) per IEEE 802.3bj Clause 91. When the FEC is turned off, the octal retimer can pass any data, coded or uncoded.

When MoSys introduced the initial LineSpeed family, gearbox functions represented an opportunistic play in a specialized PHY market. By launching MLG 1.0/2.0 gearboxes as well as RS-FEC retimers, the company has shown that retiming and multiplexing PHYs are an important market in their own right. As 100Gbps and 400Gbps devices offer broader multiplexing options, we expect MoSys to respond with a growing LineSpeed portfolio.

Networking Report subscribers can access the full article here:

EZchip Gives Mellanox Brains
By Bob Wheeler

Although Mellanox says its purchase of EZchip will be immediately accretive, the deal appears more forward looking than most recent semiconductor-industry acquisitions. For Mellanox, the acquisition brings both a development team and a wealth of intellectual property that can reshape its future products. It also diversifies its markets and customer base. EZchip gets greater scale and access to new customers, which should enable greater growth.

Mellanox’s offer of $25.50 per share represents only a 16% premium over EZchip’s closing price the day before the deal was announced. But shares of the latter company had fallen as low as $14.30 in recent months and had little chance of returning to recent highs. In August, EZchip revealed that Cisco would move future ASR 9000 designs to ASICs, ending that platform’s use of EZchip NPUs. On the plus side, EZchip expects to sample the NPS-400 this quarter, meaning it has likely reached tapeout.

In the meantime, EZchip acquired Tilera, bringing new products, customers, and markets. Of particular interest for Mellanox, we suspect, are the TILEncore intelligent network adapters (iNICs). These board-level products compete with Cavium’s LiquidIO and Netronome’s FlowNICs.

Mellanox is known primarily for its InfiniBand (IB) products, which include host adapters, switch systems, and all of the underlying controller and switch silicon. It has continued to reduce latency and improve throughput in each successive generation, culminating in its 100Gbps IB EDR products. After a long gestation period, the company’s Ethernet revenue is also growing.

Investors initially reacted negatively to the deal, perhaps sensing it was an admission of the headwinds both companies face. If Mellanox can execute on its vision, however, the acquisition could prove a brilliant strategic move. EZchip’s technology and expertise will open new opportunities for Mellanox, helping it diversify more quickly beyond IB and HPC.

Networking Report subscribers can access the full article here:

LoRa Alliance Drives Low-Power WAN
By Loring Wirbel

Announced at Mobile World Congress, a coalition for low-power, long-range IoT networking is now approaching critical mass. The LoRa Alliance, which centers on mixed-signal chips and a Semtech protocol, is winning trials ranging from mobile-network operators to government natural-resource surveys. Semtech introduced the initial RF transceivers and spread-spectrum radio technology behind LoRa in 2014. It deliberately chose a chirp spread-spectrum technology, similar to 802.15.4 WPANs, that could be implemented using unlicensed bands in several nations, including the 900MHz ISM band in the U.S.

Low-power WAN technologies are particularly suited to applications in which communications are largely one way (from client to gateway) such as when sensors must send regular low-bit-rate information to a central server. Even though all such WANs must enable downlinks for security and confirmation functions, most of these functions use simple commands. Thus, the WANs are a mirror image of the typical network models dominated by downlinks.

The Third-Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is betting that licensed services can compete for low-power IoT applications. At a Phoenix meeting in late September, the 3GPP approved the new Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), which will become a part of LTE Release 13. Meanwhile, LoRa faces competition from a handful of companies such as Ingenu, NWave, and Sigfox, which developed their own hardware technology for low-power WANs with the intent of providing IoT-network services. In addition, some members of the 802.11ah study group for sub-gigahertz long-reach wireless LANs believe a class of new 900MHz Wi-Fi devices will compete directly for the type of IoT networks that LoRa is building.

Networking Report subscribers can access the full article here:

About Linley Wire

Linley Wire is a free electronic newsletter published by The Linley Group, a technology analysis and strategic consulting firm. Linley Wire will present our analysis of recent news on semiconductors for networking and communications. Articles are posted weekly to our web site and sent monthly via email. To access the web content directly, visit our web site.

Domain: Electronics
Category: Semiconductors
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