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December 13th, 2017

The Marvell NVMe DRAM-less SSD Controller Proves Victorious at the 2017 ACE Awards

By Sander Arts, Interim VP of Marketing

Key representatives of the global technology sector were gathered together at the San Jose Convention Center last week to hear the recipients of this year’s Annual Creativity in Electronics (ACE) Awards announced. This prestigious awards event, which is organized in conjunction with leading electronics engineering magazines EDN and EE Times, highlights the most innovative products announced in the last 12 months, as well as recognizing visionary executives and the most promising new start-ups. A panel made up of the editorial teams of these magazines, plus several highly respected independent judges, were all involved in the process of selecting the winner in each category.

The 88NV1160 high performance controller for non-volatile memory express (NVMe), which was introduced by Marvell earlier this year, fought off tough competition from companies like Diodes Inc. and Cypress Semiconductor to win the coveted Logic/Interface/Memory category. Marvell gained two further nominations at the awards – with 98PX1012 Prestera PX Passive Intelligent Port Extender (PIPE) also being featured in the Logic/Interface/Memory category, while the 88W8987xA automotive wireless combo SoC was among those cited in the Automotive category.

Designed for inclusion in the next generation of streamlined portable computing devices (such as high-end tablets and ultra-books), the 88NV1160 NVMe solid-state drive (SSD) controllers are able to deliver 1600MB/s read speeds while simultaneously keeping the power consumption required for such operations extremely low (<1.2W). Based on a 28nm low power CMOS process, each of these controller ICs has a dual core 400MHz Arm® Cortex®-R5 processor embedded into it.

Through incorporation of a host memory buffer, the 88NV1160 exhibits far lower latency than competing devices. It is this that is responsible for accelerating the read speeds supported. By utilizing its embedded SRAM, the controller does not need to rely on an external DRAM memory – thereby simplifying the memory controller implementation. As a result, there is a significant reduction in the board space required, as well as a lowering of the overall bill-of-materials costs involved.

The 88NV1160’s proprietary NANDEdge™ low density parity check error-correction functionality raises SSD endurance and makes sure that long term system reliability is upheld throughout the end product’s entire operational lifespan. The controller’s built-in 256-bit AES encryption engine ensures that stored metadata is safeguarded from potential security breaches. Furthermore, these DRAM-less ICs are very compact, thus enabling multiple-chip package integration to be benefitted from.

Consumers are now expecting their portable electronics equipment to possess a lot more computing resource, so that they can access the exciting array of new software apps that are now becoming available; making use of cloud-based services, enjoying augmented reality and gaming. At the same time as offering functions of this kind, such items of equipment need to be able to support longer periods between battery recharges, so as to further enhance the user experience derived. This calls for advanced ICs combining strong processing capabilities with improved power efficiency levels and that is where the 88NV1160 comes in.

“We’re excited to honor this robust group for their dedication to their craft and efforts in bettering the industry for years to come,” said Nina Brown, Vice President of Events at UBM Americas. “The judging panel was given the difficult task of selecting winners from an incredibly talented group of finalists and we’d like to thank all of those participants for their amazing work and also honor their achievements. These awards aim to shine a light on the best in today’s electronics realm and this group is the perfect example of excellence within both an important and complex industry.”

 

November 28th, 2017

Keeping it Real: Innovative New Product Based on Marvell ESPRESSObin Platform Enables Physical Ports to be Added to Modern Virtual Networks

By Maen Suleiman, Senior Software Product Line Manager at Marvell

A number of emerging companies that serve the networking and data storage sectors are increasingly using Marvell’s popular community board – the Marvell ESPRESSObin® platform – in their product offerings. ZeroTier Edge is the latest appliance to be added to what is an ever growing list of such product offerings.

With this new product, Irvine-based start-up ZeroTier is looking to make the wide area network (WAN) much more local. According to ZeroTier, by using ZeroTier Edge, it is possible to create secure and robust LANs that can connect with a broad array of different devices across multiple locations. This means that a greater scope of equipment will now be able to gain access to virtual network infrastructure as it continues to be rolled out, without the associated software element needing to be installed.

This feature overcomes current obstacles that are holding back more widespread use of such connectivity. For example, in relation to some legacy equipment (office peripherals, building automation systems, surveillance cameras, industrial control mechanisms, etc.), installing this software simply isn’t an option, or in other cases (like where a large number of computers are involved), it is just impractical. Furthermore, using ZeroTier Edge mitigates the serious security issues that installing software onto a multitude of connected devices could potentially raise.

Relying on Marvell’s ARMADA® system-on-chip (SoC) technology and open source software, the ZeroTier Edge is a compact and highly versatile unit that can be located on a desktop and addresses a plethora of software-defined networking applications. This unit delivers enterprise-grade VPN, SD-WAN and network virtualization functionality.

ZeroTier Edge basically acts as a pre-configured layer 2 bridge that provides the physical ports (both wired and wireless) needed to enable hardware (like the examples set forth above) to connect with virtualized networks. Its ease of use means that this unit can even be installed by non-IT staff. As a result, ZeroTier is able to offer enterprise customers a unique plug-and-play solution such that they can get the full benefit of software-defined networking without needing to implement the complex and costly bridging arrangements that would otherwise be required.

Each ZeroTier Edge unit incorporates a Marvell ESPRESSObin single board computing platform that has been purpose built for supporting open source development activity of this kind within the networking space. The board features a high performance ARMADA 3700 dual core 64-bit ARM®-based processor that is capable of running at speeds of 1.2GHz. This IC allows the ZeroTier Edge to deal with up to 1Gbps of incoming/outgoing encrypted data traffic.

Through the Marvell ESPRESSObin board, ZeroTier Edge can also take advantage of extensive I/O capabilities, with 3x Gigabit Ethernet ports, a USB 3.0 SuperSpeed interface, plus dual band 802.11ac Wi-Fi®, SATA (for connection to network data storage resources) and mini PCIe.  1GByte of on-board DRAM memory and 4GBytes of flash memory are supported, too, with provision for attaching additional memory capacity using the SD card slot. There are also ample GPIO pins available.

Thanks to the Marvell ESPRESSObin board’s ability to provide strong operational performance at an attractive price point, implementing ZeroTier Edge into customers’ networks doesn’t require a heavy investment. The product is currently going through the crowdfunding process and has already gained over 90% of its target figure. The initial units are expected to start shipping in early 2018.

For more information on ZeroTier Edge and the opportunity to support the project, visit:
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/zerotier-edge-open-source-enterprise-vpn-sd-wan#/

November 8th, 2017

Redefining the Connected Home

By Sree Durbha, Head of Smart-Connected Business, Marvell Semiconductor

The concept of a fully ‘connected home’ has been discussed for more than 20 years. However, widespread proliferation has taken far longer than anyone could have originally imagined. For a long time, deployment activity seemed to be limited to a relatively small number of high value installations. These installations were generally complicated to implement and their operation was not very user-friendly. Most importantly, they were composed of an amalgamation of isolated subsystems from different suppliers rather than a single universal system.

Even as home automation started to become accessible from smartphones and tablets, market fragmentation meant that each aspect of the automation technology installed within a home was still based on its own proprietary mechanism that needed a separate app to control it. As a result, home automation systems have often proven inconvenient and frustrating for those operating them and has unquestionably held back their adoption by consumers. The industry fragmentation and lack of interoperability between different vendor ecosystems meant that the consumer couldn’t really take advantage of the connected capabilities of all the various platforms.

The industry is innovating with solutions that seem finally likely to help broaden the appeal of home automation and accelerate its future progression. Through its HomeKit™ technology, Apple is looking to consolidate all the various verticals under a single, comprehensive home automation ecosystem that works together easily and securely. The HomeKit Accessory Protocol (HAP) is enabling hardware from different suppliers involved in home automation to communicate with Apple products (iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch) via a single, consistent, complete platform. This is done via wireless technologies like Bluetooth® Low Energy technology, as well as IP connectivity. The list of different ‘behaviors’ covered by the HomeKit hardware and software technology is extensive. Selecting a playlist for the audio system, turning on the lights in a particular room, remotely starting up home appliances (such as a washer/dryer), adjusting the heating and cooling, and activating the door entry system are just a few examples. But, because all of these functions are controlled via the Apple Home app or by asking Siri (rather than multiple apps), they can now work in tandem. For instance, settings can be configured so that if the curtains in a room were drawn, then the lighting would simultaneously turn on, or the ambient lighting could be changed to fit a certain music playlist.

Marvell is placing itself at the forefront of next generation smart home development through its support of Apple HomeKit. Our family of wireless SoC devices was the first in the industry to secure certification for the original HAP specification three years ago and has consistently been at the forefront as evidenced with our latest HomeKit Accessory Protocol Release 9 (HAP R9) specification. The low power 88MW30x ICs each possess an integrated microcontroller with Cortex®-M4 processing core, plus single-band IEEE 802.11n Wi-Fi® functionality. The truly transformational change this time is our SoCs’ certification for iCloud implementation, which enables remote control of HomeKit compliant devices using voice as well as the HomeKit App using iCloud® remote access. This means that OEMs serving the home automation market will be able to make their systems much more streamlined and convenient to seamlessly implement through iCloud. As a result, new use cases are now possible. For example, you can remotely start your thermostat to heat or cool your home using the Apple Home app (or Siri® voice control) while you are still on your way home from work and have the right temperature set for when you arrive.

This technology is showcased in the Marvell® EZ-Connect® HAP software development kit (SDK), which is designed to facilitate the implementation of HomeKit-enabled home automation accessories – accelerating our OEM customers’ design cycles and allowing products to be brought to market more quickly. Complementing its 802.11n wireless connectivity, the incorporated bridging functionality also allows interfacing with equipment using other RF protocols like Bluetooth low energy technology. For example, Marvell has partnered with a leading Bluetooth low energy vendor to offer a combo module reference design that is commercially available today through one of our module vendor partners, Azurewave. Our emphasis on security, encryption and memory partitioning allows secure, over-the-air firmware upgrades so that customer applications can run securely from external Flash memory while being encrypted on the fly. Our SDK also supports Amazon’s popular AWS cloud platform and Google’s Weave/Cloud as alternatives. To accompany the SDK, Marvell intends to provide OEMs with all the collateral necessary to get their products through the HomeKit certification process as rapidly and painlessly as possible and into the market quickly. Useful project examples are also provided.

Marvell understands how crucially important a robust software solution is to enable a hassle free home automation user experience and has developed industry leading software capabilities in support of Apple HomeKit. This has allowed us to get ahead of the game.

November 6th, 2017

The USR-Alliance – Enabling an Open Multi-Chip Module (MCM) Ecosystem

By Gidi Navon, System Architect, Marvell

The semiconductor industry is witnessing exponential growth and rapid changes to its bandwidth requirements, as well as increasing design complexity, emergence of new processes and integration of multi-disciplinary technologies. All this is happening against a backdrop of shorter development cycles and fierce competition. Other technology-driven industry sectors, such as software and hardware, are addressing similar challenges by creating open alliances and open standards. This blog does not attempt to list all the open alliances that now exist —  the Open Compute Project, Open Data Path and the Linux Foundation are just a few of the most prominent examples. One technological area that still hasn’t embraced such open collaboration is Multi-Chip-Module (MCM), where multiple semiconductor dies are packaged together, thereby creating a combined system in a single package.

The MCM concept has been around for a while, generating multiple technological and market benefits, including:

  • Improved yield – Instead of creating large monolithic dies with low yield and higher cost (which sometimes cannot even be fabricated), splitting the silicon into multiple die can significantly improve the yield of each building block and the combined solution. Better yield consequently translates into reductions in costs.
  • Optimized process – The final MCM product is a mix-and-match of units in different fabrication processes which enables optimizing of the process selection for specific IP blocks with similar characteristics.
  • Multiple fabrication plants – Different fabs, each with its own unique capabilities, can be utilized to create a given product.
  • Product variety – New products are easily created by combining different numbers and types of devices to form innovative and cost‑optimized MCMs.
  • Short product cycle time – Dies can be upgraded independently, which promotes ease in the addition of new product capabilities and/or the ability to correct any issues within a given die. For example, integrating a new type of I/O interface can be achieved without having to re-spin other parts of the solution that are stable and don’t require any change (thus avoiding waste of time and money).
  • Economy of scale – Each die can be reused in multiple applications and products, increasing its volume and yield as well as the overall return on the initial investment made in its development.

Sub-dividing large semiconductor devices and mounting them on an MCM has now become the new printed circuit board (PCB) – providing smaller footprint, lower power, higher performance and expanded functionality.

Now, imagine that the benefits listed above are not confined to a single chip vendor, but instead are shared across the industry as a whole. By opening and standardizing the interface between dies, it is possible to introduce a true open platform, wherein design teams in different companies, each specializing in different technological areas, are able to create a variety of new products beyond the scope of any single company in isolation.

This is where the USR Alliance comes into action. The alliance has defined an Ultra Short Reach (USR) link, optimized for communication across the very short distances between the components contained in a single package. This link provides high bandwidth with less power and smaller die size than existing very short reach (VSR) PHYs which cross package boundaries and connectors and need to deal with challenges that simply don’t exist inside a package. The USR PHY is based on a multi-wire differential signaling technique optimized for MCM environments.

There are many applications in which the USR link can be implemented. Examples include CPUs, switches and routers, FPGAs, DSPs, analog components and a variety of long reach electrical and optical interfaces.

Figure 1: Example of a possible MCM layout

Marvell is an active promoter member of the USR Alliance and is working to create an ecosystem of interoperable components, interconnects, protocols and software that will help the semiconductor industry bring more value to the market.  The alliance is working on creating PHY, MAC and software standards and interoperability agreements in collaboration with the industry and other standards development organizations, and is promoting the development of a full ecosystem around USR applications (including certification programs) to ensure widespread interoperability.

To learn more about the USR Alliance visit: www.usr-alliance.org

October 26th, 2017

Marvell Demonstrates Powerful Security Software & Implementation Support at OpenWrt Summit via Collaboration with Sentinel & Sartura

By Maen Suleiman, Senior Software Product Line Manager at Marvell

Thanks to its collaboration with leading players in the OpenWrt and security space, Marvell will be able to show those attending the OpenWrt Summit (Prague, Czech Republic, 26-27th October) new beneficial developments with regard to its Marvell ARMADA® multi-core processors. In collaboration with contributors Sartura and Sentinel, these developments will be demonstrated on Marvell’s portfolio of networking community boards that support the 64-bit Arm® based Marvell ARMADA processor devices, by running the increasingly popular and highly versatile OpenWrt operating system, plus the latest advances in security software. We expect these new offerings will assist engineers in mitigating the major challenges they face when constructing next-generation customer-premises equipment (CPE) and uCPE platforms.

On display at the event at both the Sentinel and Sartura booths will be examples of the Marvell MACCHIATObin™ board (with a quad-core ARMADA 8040 that can deliver up to 2GHz operation) and the Marvell ESPRESSObin™ board (with a dual-core ARMADA 3700 lower power processor running at 1.2GHz).

The boards located at the Sartura booth will demonstrate the open source OpenWrt offering of the Marvell MACCHIATObin/ESPRESSObin platforms and will show how engineers can benefit from this company’s OpenWrt integration capabilities. The capabilities have proven invaluable in helping engineers expedite their development projects more quickly and allow the full realization of initial goals set for such projects. The Sartura team can take engineers’ original CPE designs incorporating ARMADA and provide production level software needed for inclusion in end products.

Marvell will also have MACCHIATObin/ESPRESSObin boards demonstrated at the Sentinel booth. These will feature highly optimized security software. Using this security software, companies looking to employ ARMADA based hardware in their designs will be able to ensure that they have ample protection against the threat posed by malware and harmful files – like WannaCry and Nyetya ransomware, as well as Petya malware, etc. This protection relies upon Sentinel’s File Validation Service (FVS), which inspects all HTTP, POP and IMAP files as they pass through the device toward the client. Any files deemed to be malicious are then blocked. This security technology is very well suited to CPE networking infrastructure and edge computing, as well as IoT deployments. Sentinel’s FVS technology can also be implemented on vCPE/uCPE as a security virtual network function (VNF), in addition to native implementation over physical CPEs – providing similar protection levels due to its extremely lightweight architecture and very low latency. FVS is responsible for identifying download requests and subsequently analyzing the data being downloaded. This software package can run on all Linux-based embedded operating systems for CPE and NFV devices which meet minimum hardware requirements and offer the necessary features.

Through collaborations such as those described above, Marvell is building an extensive ecosystem around its ARMADA products. As a result, Marvell will be able to support future development of secure, high performance CPE and uCPE/vCPE systems that exhibit much greater differentiation.

October 20th, 2017

Long-Term Prospects for Ethernet in the Automotive Sector

By Tim Lau, Senior Director Automotive Product Management, Marvell

The automobile is encountering possibly the biggest changes in its technological progression since the invention of the internal combustion engine nearly 150 years ago. Increasing levels of autonomy will reshape how we think about cars and car travel. It won’t be just a matter of getting from point A to point B while doing very little else — we will be able to keep on doing what we want while in the process of getting there.

As it is, the modern car already incorporates large quantities of complex electronics – making sure the ride is comfortable, the engine runs smoothly and efficiently, and providing infotainment for the driver and passengers. In addition, the features and functionality being incorporated into vehicles we are now starting to buy are no longer of a fixed nature. It is increasingly common for engine control and infotainment systems to require updates over the course of the vehicle’s operational lifespan.

Such an update is the one issue that proved instrumental in first bringing Ethernet connectivity into the vehicle domain. Leading automotive brands, such as BMW and VW, found they could dramatically increase the speed of uploads performed by mechanics at service centers by installing small Ethernet networks into the chassis of their vehicle models instead of trying to use the established, but much slower, Controller Area Network (CAN) bus. As a result, transfer times were cut from hours to minutes.

As an increasing number of upgradeable Electronic Control Units (ECUs) have appeared (thereby putting greater strain on existing in-vehicle networking technology), the Ethernet network has itself expanded. In response, the semiconductor industry has developed solutions that have made the networking standard, which was initially developed for the relatively electrically clean environment of the office, much more robust and suitable for the stringent requirements of automobile manufacturers. The CAN and Media Oriented Systems Transport (MOST) buses have persisted as the main carriers of real-time information for in-vehicle electronics – although, now, they are beginning to fade as Ethernet evolves into a role as the primary network inside the car, being used for both real-time communications and updating tasks.

In an environment where implementation of weight savings are crucial to improving fuel economy, the ability to have communications run over a single network (especially one that needs just a pair of relatively light copper cables) is a huge operational advantage. In addition, a small connector footprint is vital in the context of increasing deployment of sensors (such as cameras, radar and LiDAR transceivers), which are now being mounted all around the car for driver assistance/semi-autonomous driving purposes. This is supported by the adoption of unshielded, twisted-pair cabling.

Image sensing, radar and LiDAR functions will all produce copious amounts of data. So data-transfer capacity is going to be a critical element of in-vehicle Ethernet networks, now and into the future. The industry has responded quickly by first delivering 100 Mbit/s transceivers and following up with more capacious standards-compliant 1000 Mbit/s offerings.

But providing more bandwidth is simply not enough on its own. So that car manufacturers do not need to sacrifice the real-time behavior necessary for reliable control, the relevant international standards committees have developed protocols to guarantee the timely delivery of data. Time Sensitive Networking (TNS) provides applications with the ability to use reserved bandwidth on virtual channels in order to ensure delivery within a predictable timeframe. Less important traffic can make use of the best-effort service of conventional Ethernet with the remaining unreserved bandwidth.

The industry’s more forward-thinking semiconductor vendors, Marvell among them, have further enhanced real-time performance with features such as Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), employing Ternary Content-Addressable Memory (TCAM), in their automotive-optimized Ethernet switches. The DPI mechanism makes it possible for hardware to look deep into each packet as it arrives at a switch input and instantly decide exactly how the message should be handled. The packet inspection supports real-time debugging processes by trapping messages of a certain type, and markedly reduces application latency experienced within the deployment by avoiding processor intervention.

Support from remote management frames is another significant protocol innovation in automotive Ethernet. These frames make it possible for a system controller to control the switch state directly. For example, a system controller can automatically power down I/O ports when they are not needed – a feature that preserves precious battery life.

The result of these adaptations to the core Ethernet standard, as well as the increased resilience it now delivers, is the emergence of an expansive feature set that is well positioned for the ongoing transformation of the car, taking it from just being a mode of transportation into the data-rich, autonomous mobile platform it is envisaged to become in the future.

 

 

October 19th, 2017

Celebrating 20 Years of Wi-Fi – Part III

By Prabhu Loganathan, Senior Director of Marketing for Connectivity Business Unit, Marvell

Standardized in 1997, Wi-Fi has changed the way that we compute. Today, almost every one of us uses a Wi-Fi connection on a daily basis, whether it’s for watching a show on a tablet at home, using our laptops at work, or even transferring photos from a camera. Millions of Wi-Fi-enabled products are being shipped each week, and it seems this technology is constantly finding its way into new device categories.

Since its humble beginnings, Wi-Fi has progressed at a rapid pace. While the initial standard allowed for just 2 Mbit/s data rates, today’s Wi-Fi implementations allow for speeds in the order of Gigabits to be supported. This last in our three part blog series covering the history of Wi-Fi will look at what is next for the wireless standard.

Gigabit Wireless

The latest 802.11 wireless technology to be adopted at scale is 802.11ac. It extends 802.11n, enabling improvements specifically in the 5.8 GHz band, with 802.11n technology used in the 2.4 GHz band for backwards compatibility.

By sticking to the 5.8 GHz band, 802.11ac is able to benefit from a huge 160 Hz channel bandwidth which would be impossible in the already crowded 2.4 GHz band. In addition, beamforming and support for up to 8 MIMO streams raises the speeds that can be supported. Depending on configuration, data rates can range from a minimum of 433 Mbit/s to multiple Gigabits in cases where both the router and the end-user device have multiple antennas.

If that’s not fast enough, the even more cutting edge 802.11ad standard (which is now starting to appear on the market) uses 60 GHz ‘millimeter wave’ frequencies to achieve data rates up to 7 Gbit/s, even without MIMO propagation. The major catch with this is that at 60 GHz frequencies, wireless range and penetration are greatly reduced.

Looking Ahead

Now that we’ve achieved Gigabit speeds, what’s next? Besides high speeds, the IEEE 802.11 working group has recognized that low speed, power efficient communication is in fact also an area with a great deal of potential for growth. While Wi-Fi has traditionally been a relatively power-hungry standard, the upcoming protocols will have attributes that will allow it to target areas like the Internet of Things (IoT) market with much more energy efficient communication.

20 Years and Counting

Although it has been around for two whole decades as a standard, Wi-Fi has managed to constantly evolve and keep up with the times. From the dial-up era to broadband adoption, to smartphones and now as we enter the early stages of IoT, Wi-Fi has kept on developing new technologies to adapt to the needs of the market. If history can be used to give us any indication, then it seems certain that Wi-Fi will remain with us for many years to come.