Motorola ASIC to extend the life of 68000-based VME computers

TEMPE, Ariz. — Officials at the Motorola Computer Group have designed a new application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) called Petra to extend the life of their family of 68000-based VME single-board computers.

Dec 1st, 1999

Motorola ASIC to extend the life of 68000-based VME computers

By John McHale

TEMPE, Ariz. — Officials at the Motorola Computer Group have designed a new application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) called Petra to extend the life of their family of 68000-based VME single-board computers.

Motorola officials intend Petra to extend the life cycle of their single-board computers, which are based on the venerable Motorola 68000 microprocessor, for eight to 10 years, says Staci Palmer, VME marketing manager at Motorola Computer Group.

About 100 different military platforms and customers use 68000-based VME computers, says Jerry Gipper, director of business development and planning at Motorola Computer Group. Motorola`s total military computer sales were about $35 million last year — about $30 million of which were 68000 technology, he adds.

There is a huge customer base out there for the 68000, Gipper says. Implementing the new ASIC will save these customers the time and money that goes with upgrading their hardware and software to PowerPC, he explains.

The 68000 family was among the most popular microprocessors for military and aerospace applications from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s. It was also among the last popular complex-instruction-set computer architectures — better known as CISC — before the wave of reduced-instruction-set computers — or RISC — began invading the market in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Many companies still in the 68000 business have announced an end-of-life process for their products, Gipper says. Motorola officials say they hope those customers will turn toward their extended-life product, and help Motorola grow its 68000 customer base, Gipper says.

The Petra ASIC compresses five component capabilities into one device. This helps to improve product performance and reliability while saving space and power, Motorola officials claim. It also provides a software-transparent migration path for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that are using Motorola`s 68000-based board products in military/aerospace applications, industrial automation, medical imaging, and semiconductor processing.

Petra controls memory, and interfaces to IndustryPack mezzanine cards across Motorola`s line of 68000 based boards. While 68000 board products using the Petra ASIC are software compatible with previous-generation products, performance may increase because Petra replaces now-obsolete page dynamic random-access memory with synchronous dynamic random-access memory.

A future option may be to put as much functionality as possible on a field programmable gate array (FPGA), Gipper says. FPGA technology is so sophisticated today that some devices have as many as one million gates.

The Petra ASIC will integrate into Motorola`s MVME167, MVME177, MVME162, and MVME172 single-board computers. All of these products support the MC68040 and MC68060 microprocessors, an Ethernet interface, SCSI interface, as many as four serial I/O ports, parallel port, and Flash and SRAM memory. In addition, the MVME162 and MVME172 provide as many as four IndustryPack sites for customized I/O.

Motorola`s line of 68000 products will be available with the Petra ASIC by the end of this year. Motorola officials will provide a 12-to-18-month migration period between release of the new platforms and the end-of-life of previous-generation products.

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