Less than a year ago I was getting ready to attend the TSMC 2014 Technology Symposium in Moscow, an event that brought together the elite of electronics engineers from Russia. One of the companies that I met during my visit was a newly formed group that was working on an exciting new project involving a MIPS CPU.
Today I am delighted to disclose a few more details about this project and the company behind it.
Who is Baikal Electronics?
First, allow me to introduce the group: Baikal Electronics is a Russian fabless semiconductor company that develops and markets energy-efficient processors and SoCs for computer systems and industrial applications with various levels of performance and functionality.
The project they are working on is Baikal-T1, a new communications processor using a MIPS P5600 CPU; this chip will be deployed in a number of networking-related applications such as wireless routers, home gateways and other connected devices for applications such as industrial automation.
Baikal-T1 is built using 28nm process technology and consumes less than 5 W
Baikal-T1 is to become the first Russian offering for the communications market to use a MIPS Warrior CPU, boasting highly competitive properties in terms of performance, technology node and compatibility.
At the heart of the chip sits a dual-core MIPS P5600 CPU clocked at 1.2 GHz. Baikal-T1 also includes multiple high-speed (1G/10G Ethernet, PCIe, SATA 6G, USB) and low-speed interfaces (GPIO, I2C, UART, SPI). The package measures 25 x 25 mm and is manufactured on 28nm process technology, achieving less than 5 W of total power consumption – an ideal figure for fanless designs.
A block diagram of the SoC architecture can be found below:
An overview of the high-performance MIPS P5600 CPU
MIPS P5600 is an OmniShield-ready, 32-bit CPU from our high-performance P-class range of Warrior processors; we’re looking at a superscalar, out-of-order (OoO) design that implements Release 5 features such as hardware virtualization for increased security and reliability, and a 128-bit SIMD engine for high performance on data parallel operations.
MIPS P5600 has also recently achieved 5.6 CoreMark/MHz, the highest score per core for 32-bit licensable microprocessor IP.
Additional features of the CPU include EVA (Enhanced Virtual Addressing) and XPA (eXtended Physical Addressing), two technologies that extend the limits of traditional 32-bit architecture addressing. For example, XPA extends the amount of addressable physical memory in devices to a maximum of 1 Terabyte; in addition, as typical networking-related workloads require a larger address space, EVA extends the amount of virtual addressing to almost the full 4GB space. Therefore, the combination of these two features will alleviate a common bottleneck in software performance.
Through a close partnership with Imagination, Baikal products will be equipped with the most advanced RISC architecture available in the industry: MIPS CPUs deliver high performance at lower power consumption and smaller area than other competing processors.
One example that illustrates this is a feature called instruction bonding which is present in several generations of MIPS CPUs. Instruction bonding enables two consecutive loads/stores of the same type which access contiguous memory locations to be fused together by the instruction issue unit; instruction bonding allows a 2x boost in performance and saves bandwidth for memory-intensive operations; it can be used to accelerate multiple load/store instructions defined in the MIPS ISA.
Success in emerging markets
Baikal-T1 is not the only MIPS success story in Russia; earlier this month, ELVEES announced it will be using 32- and 64-bit MIPS CPUs for video analytics processors. In addition, Black Swift – a MIPS-based IoT dev board running OpenWrt – completed a very successful crowdfunding campaign, convincing 1,363 backers on Kickstarter to pledge more than $77,000 to help bring this project to life.
Given that reports place Russian government spending at around $1.3 billion per year in computing technology, it is very likely that many next-generation computing devices in Russia will continue to be MIPS-based.