Motorola Inc’s Microprocessor Products Group has been revealing a little more of its future product strategy in an attempt to quell the perception that its late entry into the RISC marketplace has left it with little chance of catching up with the currently dominant competitive offerings from Sun Microsystems Inc and MIPS Computer Systems Inc. […]
Motorola Inc’s Microprocessor Products Group has been revealing a little more of its future product strategy in an attempt to quell the perception that its late entry into the RISC marketplace has left it with little chance of catching up with the currently dominant competitive offerings from Sun Microsystems Inc and MIPS Computer Systems Inc. Details of the Motorola’s second generation RISC, the 88110, first emerged at October’s Microprocessor Forum held in Burlingame, California, along with news of a new family of embedded RISC processors, the 88300 family. Since then, 88000 system architect Keith Diefendorff has discussed the chip at the 88open Consortium’s General meeting in Frankfurt last month, and 88000 marketing manager Jeff Nutt has headed a press tour through the US and Europe. Due out some time next year, the 88100 is a highly integrated version of its predecessors, combining the functionality of the 88100 CPU and 88200 cache and memory management units into a single chip performing at three to five times the speed. Also included on the new chip will be multiple integer, floating point and graphics execution units to increase the parallelism within the chip – although just how many units there will be is not yet revealed. There will also be an 80-bit wide internal data path, improved handling of instructions sustaining more than one instruction per clock, and branch acceleration to sustain continuous execution. The new chip will integrate around 1.4m transistors – some RISC – and will run at a higher (currently unspecified) clock rate than the current maximum of 33MHz.
According to Jeff Nutt, Motorola’s late entry into the RISC marketplace is now turning to its advantage. (Of course, had it satisfied Sun’s need for a RISC processor when first asked years ago it would likely have eliminated its major competition and continued to dominate the workstation market). Nutt claims that Motorola learned from the early RISC implementations, and produced a flexible architecture designed to maximise the lifespan of the chip. Thus Motorola will find it easier to add performance as others begin to push their architectures to the limits. Diefendorff says their are far too many players in an immature market (200,000 units shipped in 1989), and that the fall-out will occur in 1992, with strong silicon manufacturers emerging as the winners. In order to extend its architecture to cope with future requirements, Motorola has included room for up to eight Special Function Units to provide for clean integration of additional functionality. –
By John Abbott
In the 88100, a Special Function Unit was used to provide an integrated floating point capability. In the new chip, new functions and instructions for graphics have been added in the same way. Within the Special Function Units, any number of multiple execution units can be added, to increase parallelism. Nutt describes the general approach of the 88000 as a symmetrical superscalar, which reduces the load on the compiler and helps with compatibility issues. Even further into the future, Motorola hints that the third generation 88000 will have more execution units, a wider data path, and more parallelism, and will approach speeds of 100MHz, according to Motorola. Remaining unconvinced by ECL, Motorola will implement the third generation part in BiCMOS, the CMOS process that uses bipolar circuitry for performance-critical functions. Assuming a quadrupling of performance by each new generation, the 88000 family will be single chip, one million transistor parts clocked at 300MHz by the late 1990s, and Diefendorff said that there appeared to be no reasons why Motorola could not achieve a throughput exceeding 4,000 MIPS by the year 2000. Brave words. Coupled with the technology itself, Motorola hopes that the helping hand it has given the 880pen Consortium in setting up a software support group for 88000 users will also help it win support. 880pen appears to have emerged as the most successful software consortium to group round a particular architecture: it popularised t
he whole area of binary and object compatibility and applications binary interfaces among RISC vendors, encouraging AT&T Co’s initiative to establish applications binary interfaces for Unix System V release 4. 88open has a 500 page catalogue of software, the 88open sourcebook, filled with what it says are all real, all available products. And it has steamed ahead with the most advanced conformance testing software suites, which many other companies are now interested in licensing. In contrast, Sparc International has had a very confused history to date, and until the liberation of Unix System V.4, Sparc users are closely tied in to operating system, networking and user interface software that comes from Sun itself, although the licensing can be done through Interactive Systems Corp. Synthesis Software, the MIPS software initiative, ended in failure because MIPS wanted it to make a profit, according to 88open president Tom Mace, and even now MIPS has no application binary interface strategy in place.
And Mass860 group backing Intel Corp’s 80860 currently appears to be a very informal operation, with no clear mission. But the group is in dire need of a volume reseller. Nutt claims that it takes time for such suppliers to come out of the woodwork, and that they will duly appear over the next few years. Currently hardware manufacturers such as Bolt Beranek & Newman Inc, Cetia SA, Data General Corp, Dolphin Server Technology A/S, Encore Computer Corp, Everex Systems Inc, Motorola Computer Systems, Norsk Data A/S, Omron Corp, Philips NV, Quotron Systems Inc, Sanyo-Icon Inc and Unisys Corp have declared for the 88000, along with embedded control manufacturers, comms manufacturers, board manufacturers and the military and avionics market, including Harris Corp and Europe’s Thomson-CSF SA. Four hardware manufacturers still remain committed but undeclared. But the speculation remains about Apple Computer Inc’s RISC intentions, still not entirely clear – will it go for servers of workstation products if it eventually does use the 88000?. Compaq Computer Corp and Ing C Olivetti & Co SpA have been mentioned as two majors that have not so far announced their RISC intentions, but Motorola will face stiff competition for the business.