MIPS, PARTNERS FLEX THEIR MUSCLES IN BATTLE WITH SPARC

by CBR Staff Writer| 29 March 1988

Ensuring that we all remember that the Sun Sparc is not the only RISC game in town, MIPS Computer Systems Inc and its semiconductor partners LSI Logic Corp, Integrated Device Technology and Performance Semiconductor kicked the week off with a blitz of announcements which include new processors that double performance of the MIPS RISC; a new joint venture software company; and agreement with AT&T to develop an applications binary interface for Unix on its RISCs. That agreement mirrors similar AT&T pacts with Sun and with Motorola. The new MIPS R3000 processor and R3010 floating point co-processor, developed in 1.2 micron CMOS technology, are available in 25MHz and 16MHz versions, and are claimed to deliver system-level sustained performance of up to 20 times that of a VAX-11/780. Like the R2000, the new CPU has an on-chip cache controller and memory management unit, and it supports up to 4Gb direct memory addressing and 512Kb cache. LSI Logic says the optional LR3010 floating-point accelerator allows integer and floating-point operations to be done in parallel and delivers 7MFLOPS single precision and 4MFLOPS double-precision performance. There is also an LR3020 write buffer to speed updating of slow main memory. LSI wants $875 for the CPU, $925 for the floating point unit; Integrated is cheapest at $795 for the CPU, $875 for the floating point, $45 for the buffer, but is the latest, with samples in July. Performance Semiconductor of Sunnyvale is promising June delivery of the faster part at $895; all prices are for 100-up. The chipmakers, MIPS' customers and its own private investment group, are helping with the $10m funding of a software buying consortium, Synthesis Software Solutions, also in Sunnyvale. Synthesis will port software packages in high demand by MIPS customers, undertake special software projects, and provide documentation and support. Amongst the 20 suppliers already signed are Applix, Austec, Frame Technology, Informix Software, Tigera Group and Verdix. AT&T's applications binary interface for the MIPS architecture will allow third party software developers to produce portable applications software by complying with the specification, providing systems manufacturers and customers with a base of binary compatible software across MIPS-based hardware: this currently includes Ardent Computer, Prime Computer, Silicon Graphics, RC Computer, Seiko Epson Corp, Tandem Computers Inc and Whitechapel Workstations Ltd.

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