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First quad- and octa-core QorIQ SoCs unveiled

Jun 23, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 1,856 views

Freescale revealed two Linux-enabled QorIQ LS1 networking SoCs with four and eight 1.5GHz Cortex-A53 cores, and says it will offer a Cortex-A72 LS2 model.

Visitors to the Freescale Technology Forum in Austin, Texas, this week have enjoyed a motherlode of product announcements from Freescale, not to mention a keynote from hardware hacker patron saint Steve Wozniak. Here we look at Freescale’s announcement of the company’s first 64-bit, ARMv8 QorIQ LS1 SoCs. The octa-core QorIQ LS1088A and quad-core LS1048A SoCs are the first QorIQ models with Cortex-A53 cores.


Also this week, Freescale, which plans to merge with NXP by the end of the year, introduced a new line of Cortex-A7 based, MCU-enabled i.MX7 SoCs. In addition, it unveiled Freescale’s first computer-on-module product, a tiny, i.MX6-based SCM-i.MX6D, and announced new Kinetis K8x Cortex-M microcontrollers among other announcements.

The QorIQ LS1088A and LS1048A follow the earlier, dual-core Cortex-A7 LS1020A, LS1021A, and LS1022A processors — the first non-PowerPC based QorIQs — which were announced in 2013 and shipped in 2014. Since then, the company launched a dual-core, Cortex-A9 based LS1024A model, as well as an LS102MA QorIQ with dual ARM11 cores. The company still offers several dozen Power-based QorIQ and QorIQ Qonverge processors, but ARM seems to be the future direction here.

QorIQ LS1088A block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Like the other QorIQ SoCs, the octa-core QorIQ LS1088A and quad-core QorIQ LS1048A are primarily designed for networking duty. They are said to be specifically designed for intelligent edge access equipment, NFV and virtual CPE solutions, industrial control systems, and intelligent NIC applications.

Both the QorIQ LS1088A and LS1048A have Cortex-A53 cores clocked to up to 1.5GHz. Each cluster of rour cores can draw on 1MB of L2 cache. Other features include 1MB of L3 cache and 4MB of cache component memory, as well as a 64-bit DDR4 memory controller with support for up to 2.1 GT/s.

The SoCs integrate Freescale’s second-generation datapath acceleration architecture (DPAA2), which is said to “deliver datapath offload with software developers in mind.” DPAA2 is also said to “enable networking engineers with the processing resources to deliver low power, flexible and cost-efficient solutions for new virtualized networks as envisioned by ARM and others.”

DPAA2 — and the new LS1 SoCs in general — are further touted for sophisticated accelerator sharing, with a wide range of acceleration engines. These include an I/O coprocessor to offload software running on the CPUs, as well as various network security engines, including SEC crypto acceleration.

The SoCs feature two 10Gbps and eight gigabit Ethernet interfaces with 28Gbps L2 switch capabilities. The networking subsystem supports XAUI/XFI/KR, QSGMII, and “MACSec on up to four 1/10 GbE,” says Freescale.

The QorIQ LS1088A and LS1048A are further equipped with three PCIe x1 Gen 3 interfaces, as well as SATA 3.0, dual USB 3.0, and dual TDM/HDLC interfaces. Also on tap is a SR-IOV virtualization interface, along with “Root Complex,” says Freescale.

Development support for the QorIQ LS1088A and LS1048A will include a “comprehensive” Linux toolkit, as well as APIs for Linaro and OpenDataPath (ODP) technologies. Freescale will also provide functional datapath libraries, Freescale VortiQa software, and “management software for easy setup, initialization and teardown of interfaces, accelerators and networking functions,” says the company.

Freescale promises Cortex-A72 and 16nm QorIQs

We had thought that Freescale would hold off on ARMv8 until its promised LS2 line of QorIQs arrived in 2016, but these first 64-bit LS1 models are due to ship first in 1Q 2016. Freescale also had some news about the LS2 line, saying the company plans to include a Cortex-A72 LS2 model. According to ARM, the Cortex-A72 SoCs will be about twice (1.9x) as fast as Cortex-A57 and 3.5 times as fast as Cortex-A15, but only when using TSMC’s new 16nm FinFET+ node fabrication, enabling a clock rate of up to 2.5GHz.

Cortex-A72 block diagram (left) and in a typical Big.Little SoC configuration
(click images to enlarge; source: ARM)

In yet another announcement, Freescale said it is planning to move to 16nm FinFET process “to enable next-generation QorIQ processors to deliver 2x performance gains within the same power envelope relative to 28nm products.” Initial 16nm FinFET SoC product sampling is expected in mid-2016, added the company.

Freescale made no mention of Cortex-A72 in the 16nm FinFET announcement. Perhaps it is instead planning to first give the 16nm treatment to a higher end PowerPC-based QorIQ instead.

“The QorIQ LS1088A processor pairs our offload datapath with ARM’s most advanced 64-bit capable Cortex-A53 core, providing an excellent balance of low power and high performance, and bringing an advanced architectural solution to the value tier and the intelligent edge,” stated Tareq Bustami, vice president of Freescale’s Digital Networking group. “Last year we announced the QorIQ LS2 family for the new virtualized network, and today we are in full execution mode and are uniquely positioned for even greater portfolio expansion with the upcoming integration of Cortex-A72 core technology.”

Further information

Freescale’s QorIQ LS1088A and LS1048A devices are planned for availability in Q1 2016. More information may be found in Freescale’s QorIQ LS1088A and LS1048A announcement and the QorIQ LS1088A and LS1048A product page.

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