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Cast announces royalty-free BA22 32-bit RISC IP

Some designs need a CPU core but not an ARM core. The issue may simply be avoiding royalties, avoiding export restrictions, or complying with a corporate policy. Alternatively, it may be that you are trying to hit a speed-areapower point that is a stretch for ARM’s current products and you don’t want to invest in an expert in processorcore optimization. This situation can easily come up when a legacy design using an 8- or 16-bit core runs out of steam, for example, and needs to migrate to 32 bits.
One option would be to use an open-source CPU core, such as the open-SPARC S1, the Leon, or the more specialized Lattice Semiconductor LatticeMico 32. With such open-source cores, however, you may be on your own for verification and integration. Another alternative would be a commercial core, such as one employing the BA2 architecture from Slovenian IP (intellectual-property) vendor Beyond Semiconductor. This choice recently became more attractive with the announcement that three preconfigured versions of Beyond’s BA22 core are now available under royalty-free license from IP supplier Cast.
The BA22 family, according to Nikos Zervas, Cast’s vice president of marketing, is what you’d get if you started out with a clean sheet of paper, without constraints from a decadesold instruction-set architecture and with the latest thinking in compact, low-power design. In this scenario, you would have few enough constraints to produce some impressive results, and it appears that Beyond has done so. According to Zervas, a study from technology-analysis and -consulting company Linley Group finds the BA22 instruction stream 5 to 20% denser than ARM’s Thumb-2. The company goes on to claim implementations as small as 12,000 gates, operating dynamic-power consumption of as little as 23 μW/ MHz in a—presumably lowpower—65-nm process, and 1.4 DMIPS/MHz, all from a fully synthesizable core.


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