Xscale climbs into server, tablet designs

SAN FRANCISCO – While Intel Corp. is busy extending its Xscale processor technology to the communications and networking markets, a Canadian product designer is using it to create the building blocks for a range of intelligent devices.


Intel Developer Forum 2002, Intrinsyc Software Inc. is demonstrating a series of reference designs based on the chipmaker’s micro architecture. These include a handheld called the CerfPDA, a gateway server called CerfCube and an in-vehicle Web tablet called CerfPod.

“”They’re starting points for developers,”” said Brett Kaarto, investor relations manager for the Vancouver-based firm. “”(Customers) don’t want to invest in some crazy new business or start building something from scratch. Just having a way to make a prototype makes a big difference.””

Intrinsyc created its own example of products using the reference designs that are on display in its booth at the IDF technology showcase. The CerfCube, for example, looks about the size of a Rubik’s Cube with four small legs and is intended to run server appliances, data collection devices, scanners and office automation products. Kaarto said the three-inch by three-inch cube could also be used by developers to test embedded applications. This has in some respects generated the most interest, Kaarto added: Pitney Bowes is already creating a product with the design, he said.

The CerfPod, meanwhile, features a small monitor that can be installed on a dashboard to display inventory or other information. Eatons is using the design in its fleet management division, Kaarto said. The CerfPDA is not as sleek or streamlined as Palm or Handspring devices, but Kaarto said the prototypes were only there to serve as a way for customers to visualize the application possibilities. Vending machine companies, for example, could rig up the CerfPDA to track temperature changes in order to know when to stock machines with more beverages or to check the supplies are running low.

“”I know it looks like some clunky thing out of the 1970s,”” he said.

Intrinsyc is using the 32-bit PXA250 applications processor running from 200 MHz to 400 MHz, which Intel released only a few weeks ago. Intel has said the small form factor and low-power consumption of the Xscale architecture is seen as vital for handhelds. In Wednesday’s keynote, Intel wireless and communications group general manager Ron Smith announced a partnership with Microsoft whereby the software firm will create CE.Net optimizations for Xsccale, including compilers.

Intel is using IDF to promote the technology in several other segments as well. Steve Wall, an executive with Intel’s I/O group, said Xscale was a key ingredient in the processor companies’ I/O processors, potentially allowing storage equipment makers a cheaper alternative to other chips with a tiny footprint. It will be particularly useful in RAID applications when paired with an RAIDIOS 110 chip that uses the SCSI on a motherboard, he said. Wall added that this will put the “”original ‘I’”” back in RAID – from redundant array of “”independent”” disks to “”inexpensive.””

“”We are just getting started,”” he said. “”You will not have a sever anywhere in the world that doesn’t have RAID on it.””

Kaarto said the Xscale core could find its way into many areas. “”Intel’s really becoming the darling of the embedded chip market,”” he said.

Intel also included Xscale in the line of network processors it launched this week, which are designed for network edge and core applications. IDF 2002 runs through Thursday.

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