Posted by Richard Solomon on November 13, 2015
Ok, Ok, I confess to a bit of a sensationalist streak 🙂 [Who, me??] In truth, the world’s second PCIe Gen4 system is brought to you by the very same people who brought you the world’s first – us, Synopsys that is.
The whole “ARM beats Intel!” is true – in one particular sense very near and dear to my own heart, but you’ll have to read on for the details…
I know that when you last heard from me, I was gallivanting around Asia on the PCI-SIG Asia Pacific Developers Conference tour, but I’m back in the US. This week I’ve been at ARM TechCon 2015 with the latest iteration of Synopsys’ DesignWare IP for PCI Express 4.0 demo system.
As you may recall, the world’s first PCIe Gen4 system is comprised of a Synopsys PCIe Gen4 Root Complex talking to a Synopsys PCIe Gen4 Endpoint (both of which have passed PCI-SIG compliance testing at Gen3 by the way). I may have mentioned that our root complex uses an ARC microprocessor … which would probably NOT be very popular at an ARM conference even if we promised to leave all the squirrels at home. In order to be good guests, and because Scott and I have been wanting a demo with more future interoperability testing potential (shhhhh!), we asked (ok, more like pleaded with, badgered, and begged) the Synopsys prototyping team to accelerate the second generation Gen4 demo for us. The result is something like this:
Which turns into this when realized in hardware:
Hopefully you can tell from those pictures that the new demo uses Synopsys’ switch port IP, along with an internally-developed PCIe switch to connect a Gen4 x1 link to a Gen2 x4 host. (We used Gen2 largely to avoid the timing hassles arising from carrying Gen3 over that meter-plus cable you can see snaking around the table.) Our friends over at Teledyne LeCroy (yep, you can look and find them here too) were kind enough to loan us a PCIe Gen3 analyzer which we put on the upstream side of the switch to show that traffic was going all the way up to the host. We also showed that the Synopsys Endpoint and Switches were visible to Windows (including in Device Manager) just like any other PCIe device – because, well, they *ARE* PCIe devices.
Since this new demo was fresh from lab development, the Synopsys prototyping folks didn’t exactly trust me to put it together myself – and rightly so! Adachi-san was kind enough to come over from Synopsys Japan for the sole purpose of helping Scott and me set up and show the new demo. That’s real dedication, but you can see from the grins that it paid off – though you can probably guess which one of us is the more jet-lagged 😀
This was my first time at ARM TechCon, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. One of the first things I noticed was a very large number of “EXPO PASS” badges in use, and I soon realized those were the free passes…which means in some ways EVERY day at ARM TechCon is a lot like free day at IDF so I was both guarding the giveaways, and expecting long lines for food. On the other hand, and this is where I finally confess to the true meaning of my headline “ARM beats Intel!”, the food tables at ARM TechCon were actually refreshed (several times) during the “happy hour”. So while neither ARM nor Intel has yet announced a PCIe Gen4 system, as far as I’m concerned, ARM is beating Intel in the critical “feeding show attendees” category! 😀
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I’ve been involved in the development of PCI chips dating back to the NCR 53C810 and pre-1.0 versions of the PCI spec so have definitely lived the evolution of PCI Express and PCI since the very beginning! Over the years I have worked on variations of PCI, eventually moving on to architecting and leading the development of the PCI Express and PCI-X interface cores used in LSI’s line of storage RAID controller chips. For the last ten plus years I've also had the honor of serving on the PCI-SIG Board of Directors and holding a variety of officer positions. I am still involved in PCI-SIG workgroups and I present at many PCI-SIG events around the world. Back before the dawn of PCI, I received my B.S.E.E. from Rice University, and hold over two dozen U.S. Patents, many of which relate to PCI technology.