A few days ago somebody asked me on Twitter for a list of MIPS-based networking processors. A few hours later I went to work and produced a list of the most recent chips that use MIPS CPUs.
The list below focuses on two main categories: 32-bit home networking and 64-bit enterprise communications, storage and security. In this article I will be focusing on the following MIPS-based products that will be used in next-generation connected consumer and enterprise applications:
- Broadcom XLP II Series (XLP200, XLP500, XLP700, XLP900)
- Cavium OCTEON III CN78xx/CN77xx and CN71xx/CN70xx
- Ikanos Fusiv® Vx575
- Altair FourGee-3802
- Lantiq VRX220 and MELT
- MediaTek MT7628 and MT7688
Let’s review these chips in more detail.
MIPS is the undisputed leader in performance efficiency for networking
MIPS64-based comms and data center processors from Cavium and Broadcom
The Broadcom XLP500 comms processor was introduced in March and implements essential features of the MIPS64 architecture needed for networking, storage and security applications, including full hardware support for virtualization. Broadcom XLP500 offers a very compelling solution for mid-range devices, complementing additional members of the XLP II family.
The new MIPS-based embedded processors offer double the performance of previous generation 64-bit Broadcom CPUs at similar power consumption levels. The XLP500 Series multi-core, multi-threaded processor line-up includes three models (quad, hexa and octa-core CPUs), each with two distinct package options.
Here is a short overview of the high-performance XLP II family:
- Broadcom XLP200 integrates up to eight NXCPUs™
- Broadcom XLP500 and XLP500Lite integrate up to 32 NXCPUs
- Broadcom XLP700 integrates up to 80 NXCPUs
- Broadcom XLP900 integrates up to 640 NXCPUs
Cavium highlighted the new MIPS64-based dual and quad-core OCTEON III SoCs at the beginning of this year, demonstrating a new benchmark for high performance at very low power and compelling BOM.
Cavium OCTEON III processors are based on the MIPS64 Release 5 architecture and scale up to 48 cores
The company now has a line-up of four SKUs that implement the MIPS64 Release 5 architecture:
- Cavium OCTEON III CN78XX and CN77XX for ultra-high performance networking, security and storage applications
- Cavium OCTEON III CN71XX and CN70XX for enterprise access points, secure service provider gateways, NAS and UTM/security router applications
To accelerate time to market for its customers, Cavium offers complete turn-key reference designs and comprehensive software packages for all the devices mentioned above. Ubiquiti Networks is one of the many companies that use MIPS64-based Cavium Octeon processors in their routers.
MIPS32-based SoCs powering LTE, Wi-Fi and xDSL devices
Ikanos Fusiv® Vx575 is the latest addition to the MIPS family. Fusiv Vx575 is a family of multi-mode gateway processors designed for next-generation smart residential gateways; these chips support wire-speed throughput, while providing a speedy offload processing engine. Fusiv Vx575 processors are also equipped with a high-performance SMP dual-core, multi-threaded MIPS interAptiv CPU subsystem, packing up to 1.2 GHz of processing power per core for carrier and OEM customization and differentiation. Ikanos has recently announced that the Fusiv gateway processor will be featured in Mako Networks’ multi-mode LTE CPE platform certified to operate on Sprint.
Altair announced the availability of FourGee-3802, its newest MIPS-based LTE-Advanced baseband processor compliant with 3GPP Release 10 specifications; FourGee-3802 is based on Altair’s patented Software Defined Radio (SDR) architecture and can be software upgradable to support Release 11 specifications. Altair has been a pioneer in LTE-only technologies, seeing design wins in the HP Chromebook 11, Verizon Ellipsis 7, WNC Wi-Fi routers, Yota Wi-Fi Dongle and other IoT devices.
Sequans showcased the Cassiopeia LTE-Advanced Platform which includes a MIPS-based, high-performance SQN3220 baseband SoC and a SQN3240 LTE-optimized multi-band transceiver. Additionally, Sequans is making important inroads in China, where two of its partners – Datang Mobile and DareGlobal – are providing Sequans-powered TD-LTE devices to China Telecom.
Lantiq announced VRX220, a new MIPS-based xDSL comms processor that provides a one chip solution for carriers to build mature, feature rich VDSL gateways at very competitive costs. Lantiq uses MIPS CPUs for the entire range of XWAY™ xRX200 and xRX300 gateway chips.
Lantiq also uses MIPS CPUs inside the new MELT integrated device controller which supports up to 128 channels; the firmware running on the processor controls opmodes, state machines, measurements, event handling, interfaces, and other functionality. Additionally, it processes the physical layer measurement results, converting them into the requested format and providing the necessary interpretation of the end user (e.g. short circuit detection, open loop, etc.).
Lantiq MELT chipsets are used with products from Tollgrade Communications
MediaTek wants to offer consumers everywhere access to the high-end networking technology made possible by MIPS-based processors. To this end, the company is pushing two new MIPS32-based chips targeting next-generation smart homes:
- MT7688 is a processor designed for the connected home that runs Linux and supports 802.11n Wi-Fi connectivity. MediaTek promoted this chip as an industry leader in low power consumption.
- MT7628 is the first 802.11n 2T2R AP SoC for home routers and IoT gateways; this innovative solution operates with 18% less power compared to similar solutions and decreases BOM cost by 10%.
WRTnode runs OpenWrt on a MIPS-based MediaTek MT7620n Wi-Fi chipset
There are several innovative companies using MIPS-based chipsets from MediaTek, Qualcomm Atheros and others to build very affordable IoT and networking devices running OpenWrt (a few examples here, here, here or here). OpenWrt is also a major project for the prpl foundation.
More importantly, the licensing pipeline is continuously kept busy; in the year since closing the acquisition of MIPS, we have signed numerous new licenses of MIPS CPUs in networking and other applications – we reported more than 48 licenses as of June 2014 and this included several new licenses in networking. Additionally, our architectural licensees continue to develop and market devices for this space.
A complete roadmap of 32-bit and 64-bit MIPS CPUs for networking
Last November we announced the high-performance P-class MIPS P5600; it includes several features that map extremely well to networking and communications processors. For example, MIPS P5600 includes advanced addressing extensions for Enhanced Virtual Address (EVA) and eXtended Physical Address (XPA); EVA enables access to 3GB+ for Linux-based operating systems without use and overhead of HIGHMEM while XPA extends physical addressing up to 1 Terabyte (40-bits), meeting the requirements of 32-bit server and networking applications.
Additionally, our new MIPS I6400 64-bit CPU features our unique simultaneous multi-threaded technology which can significantly boost performance and reduce power consumption for comms processors. High performance per area and power efficiency and access to thread-level management make I6400 the ideal solution for 32-/64-bit networking applications that are highly threaded and scale from multi- to many-core processors.
The MIPS roadmap is further strengthened by our broad range of complementary IP – in networking, this includes our Ensigma communications and connectivity IP, including a broad range of wired/wireless IP for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other relevant standards.