Spectrum's quickComm architecture improves DSP performance for signals intelligence

BURNABY, British Columbia - Engineers at Spectrum Signal Processing have developed a new digital signal processing (DSP) architecture for their signals intelligence products, based on the Texas Instruments TMS320C6202/C6203- DSP chips.

By John McHale

BURNABY, British Columbia - Engineers at Spectrum Signal Processing have developed a new digital signal processing (DSP) architecture for their signals intelligence products, based on the Texas Instruments TMS320C6202/C6203- DSP chips.

The Spectrum product, called quickComm, will double the performance on every processor, claims Dave Hobbs, chief technology officer at Spectrum in Burnaby, British Columbia. It is aimed at applications requiring high performance and high-rate data transfer rates such as signal intelligence and imaging, he says.

The quickComm is a system-level architecture that increases processor density and bandwidth and eases software development, Hobbs explains. The architecture provides inter/intra-board communications between DSPs, DSP-to-host, and DSP-to-I/O. It also addresses DSP-to-I/O communications by extending the architecture using a quickComm-enhanced PMC module to enable I/O data transfer rates in excess of 1.6 gigabytes per second, Spectrum officials say.

"Spectrum's new quickComm architecture will complement our TMS320C6202 and TMS320C6203 digital signal processors by opening up new opportunities in evolving high-performance applications," says Henry Wiechman, TMS320C6000 strategic marketing manager for Texas Instruments in Dallas. "Spectrum's ASIC-based solution can be used with a [TMS320]C6202/C6203 DSP in applications such as direction-finding, beam-forming and multi-DSP image processing."

Spectrum officials say they believe the quick architecture will benefit applications such as multi-channel signals intelligence, multi-antenna signal analysis and enhancement, as well as wideband and multiple spectrum analysis systems.

The key to it all, says Hobbs, is Spectrum's new custom ASIC design called Solano. This custom ASIC is efficient in they way it can distribute data, Hobbs claims.

The Solano ASIC is a critical component within each 'DSP Unit' (which includes a Solano, a TMS320C6202/C6203 DSP, and a block of SDRAM). Within a DSP unit, Solano connects directly to the DSP, has four full-duplex 200 megabyte-per-second data connectors (as much as 1,600 megabytes per second of communication bandwidth), and enables direct full-bandwidth access to the SDRAM.

The Solano ASIC's simple FIFO design enables easy data-flow, Hobbs says. Each channel is as simple as a FIFO between the source and the destination. FIFOs in both directions provide paths for data-flow and control, Hobbs explains. The large FIFOs enable the device to connect directly to simple I/O devices, he adds.

Solano also takes advantage of low-voltage differential signaling (LVDS) technology, Hobbs says. LVDS provides high speed and low power data communication, enabling bandwidth without heat, he says. The LVDS low wire count also provides a direct drive for intra- and inter- board communications, Hobbs adds.

Spectrum officials do not currently plan to make the Solano IC commercially available as an independent product. However, company officials say they are interested in working with original equipment manufacturers to design products that implement Solano.

The Mosport-VME is Spectrum's first board based on the quickComm architecture. The board is an octal DSP carrier board based on Texas Instruments 2,000 MIPS, 250 MHz, fixed-point TMS320C6202 processor.

The quickComm architecture and Solano ASIC has reduced the board area requirements making it possible for Spectrum to offer an octal TMS320C6202-based VME product in one slot, Spectrum officials say. Mosport-VME is designed for processing wideband signals.

Each of the eight DSPs combines with a Solano communications ASIC. This provides quickComm links to other DSPs, to the quickComm-enhanced PMCs, to the VME P0 connectors, to the front panel, and to the PCI local bus, resulting in 9.6 gigabytes per second of peak communications bandwidth.

This bandwidth enables the processors to spend minimal time moving data and more time processing the data, Spectrum officials say. The two quickComm-enhanced PMC sites on the VME board also offer expandability for improved I/O performance.

For more information on the quickComm architecture and Mosport-VME contact Spectrum Signal Processing by phone at 604-421-5422, by fax at 604-421-1764, or on the World Wide Web at http://www.spectrumsignal.com.

More in Computers