Intel Revs Up Comms Coprocessor

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Intel rolled out Coleto Creek, an update of its Cave Creek co-processor aiming to drive the company’s x86 CPUs deeper into communications systems.

Coleto Creek is made in the same 32nm process as Cave Creek, which was launched in February 2012, but gets significantly higher performance marks. That’s due in part to “beefier accelerators” in the chip and the fact it is paired with Intel’s latest Xeon server processor, the E5-2600v2, which sports enhanced security and virtualization features.

To hit maximum performance numbers requires using two Xeons and four Coleto chips each consuming 17-20 W max. The chip aims to handle a variety of jobs including “applications, control and data plane traffic and to some extent signal processing with a simpler tools suite and engineering providing faster time-to-market,” said Steve Price, general manager of Intel’s communications infrastructure division, speaking in in a conference call.

“Coleto Creek is hardly revolutionary, but it matches or betters the performance of Cavium’s Nitrox III chips, so Intel now has a competitive security accelerator,” said Bob Wheeler, a principal analyst for networking at The Linley Group (Mountain View, Calif.).

The pin-compatible Coleto Creek sports two to six times the performance of Cave Creek, but also draws more power (17-20 W max).

The pin-compatible Coleto Creek sports two to six times the performance of Cave Creek, but also draws more power (17-20 W max).

Intel said the chip does not use any acceleration logic for regular expressions, popular in other network processors. Instead it relies on the x86 for such jobs, but Intel does plan advances with its AVX instruction set, use of caches and external memory to enhance reg ex performance in future offerings.

Avantech, Adlink, Dell, Emerson, Radisys, and Silicon will join Intel in making boards using Colteo Creek. Intel said the design wins for Cave Creek were twice what Intel had forecast, however it would not share sales figures for the chips now used in cloud, enterprise and storage systems.

Meanwhile Intel is still working on a Xeon accelerator geared for signal processing, targeting use in base stations. Prototype designs using FPGAs are now in market trials at China Mobile, which is using a server data center as a so-called cloud radio access network.

“We are looking at how to create synergy from big cells serving thousands of users to small cells in metro areas of public networks,” said Price.

— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times Circle me on Google+