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  1. Technology
November 23, 1987


By CBR Staff Writer

With the rapid acceptance of the MIPS RISC and all the excitement generated by the Sun SPARC, not to mention the Motorola 78000 just around the corner, does the world really need another RISC microprocessor? AMD cer tainly believes it does, and reports that big names are flocking to adopt or support its contender, the Am29000. Advanced Micro Devices Inc is extremely gung-ho about the prospects for its new Am29000 microprocessor, which it describes as a high-performance, second-generation RISC. As reported briefly (CI No 814), seven Fortune 500 and equivalent international companies in the minicomputer, workstation and computer graphics markets want to try the thing out and will be the beta test sites for the part, starting next month. The 29000 program is progressing at an accelerated pace. Bullish We had first silicon ahead of schedule and are on target with our support programme and beta test sites, declares a bullish John East, senior vice president of the company’s logic group, which hopes to start general production in the spring of 1988. AMD reckons that the Am29000 is three to five times the performance of other microprocessors. On the Dhrystone benchmark version 1.1, which the company says it performed this month with the most recent optimising compilers, the thing is claimed to have recorded 35,760 Dhrystones per second. The company is sticking by the design performance of 25 MIPS peak, with a sustained performance of 17 MIPS – but AMD reckons that by tweaking the silicon, it will get it up to over 30 MIPS next year. The 32-bit part has been designed for computation intensive applications of the kind performed by superminis, workstations, high-performance graphics and laser printer controllers, 100M-bit-per-second network protocol controllers, communication switching systems and embedded peripheral controllers. It includes a 128-instruction branch target cache which allows sustained performance on branches, 192 general purpose registers, more than any other commercially available microprocessor, but in keeping with RISC theory: many observers believe that RISCs gain their speed more from the fact that much more work is done in on-chip registers than in a complex instruction set CPU rather than from any intrinsic gain to be had from an extremely simple instruction set that executes most functions in one cycle. The Am29000’s on-chip 64-entry memory management unit performs single-cycle address translations 50% to 150% faster than would an external memory management unit, according to the Sunnyvale company. Senior veep East also reported that some of the top firms in the world have agreed to support the chip with development tools. They have been impressed with the Am29000 and have pledged their full support, he reckons. The Am29000 support programme provides all the tools designers need to incorporate this product into their minicomputer, workstation or embedded system, he says. Several third-party suppliers that have agreed to provide products to support the Am29000 have been announced by the company. Definicon, described as a leading supplier of high-performance MS-DOS-based accelerators, is doing an Am29000/Am29027 board for high-speed, computation-intensive applications. Embedded Performance, of San Jose, California, is reported to be providing a complete set of hardware and software development tools, of which an Am29000 instruction set-simulator is currently available and a C compiler, assembler, linker and source level debugger are promised shortly. Under development are an Am29000-based software execution vehicle and a tool to debug designs incorporating the chip. Logic Automation, of Beaverton, Oregon, which supplies LSI/VLSI simulation models for systems designers, is providing behavioural models for the Am29000 and the Am29027 and announced availability of its SmartModel simulation model for the Am29000 in September. Intermetrics, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, a major supplier of embedded systems programming tools, is building highly optimised compilers, assemblers and high-level language debu

ggers which are being tailored to support fully the Am29000’s pipeline architecture, register cache and large general register count. Ironics Inc – now there’s a name for you: wouldn’t it be nice to work for a company called Ironics? – an Ithaca, New York VMEbus manufacturer known for its high-performance real-time multiprocessing boards and systems, and its dry wit, no doubt, is planning soon to introduce a single-board computer based on the Am29000 processor. Unix V.3 The new VMEbus CPU board will be part of the Ironics family of multiprocessing engines and is again being designed to take full advantage of the architecture of the Am29000 and the Am29027 arithmetic accelerator. Metaware, of Santa Cruz, California, a developer of C and Pascal optimising compilers for a wide variety of hosts, is developing C and Pascal optimising compilers for the Am29000 chip. And, as already reported, Ready Systems, of Palo Alto, California, with integrated real-time operating system software and development tools for embedded microprocessors, is developing the VRTX32 Versatile Real-Time Executive, the RT scope debugger and the VRTX32 system monitor for the Am29000. A leading developer of Unix tools which marked its coupon with an X for no publicity, tools is developing a Unix System V.3 implementation for the Am29000, and AMD promises to announce other third-party suppliers and products shortly. Development products to be sold and supported by AMD itself include advanced optimising C, Pascal and Fortran compilers that are being developed for it by Greenhills. And assembler, linker, loader and librarian toolkit package, along with the Xray29, high level/assembly level debugger for the Am29000, is being developed by Microtec Research Inc, which will sell the thing itself as well as making it available through AMD. AMD also has the Adapt29K advanced hardware debug module that provides extensive debugging facilities compatible with the users’ target hardware; the Mon29K development tool, which performs low-level monitor functions and works in conjunction with the Xray29 and the Adapt29K. And the floating point maths libraries for the Am29000/Am29027, are being developed by a leading supplier of high-performance software.

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