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A Brief History of Andes Technology

A Brief History of Andes Technology
by Paul McLellan on 01-06-2014 at 4:47 pm

 I like to call Andes Technology the biggest microprocessor IP company you’ve never heard of. I wrote about themback in October when I sat down with them during the Linley Microprocessor Conference. Part of the reason you have never heard of them is that they are based in Taiwan and most of their business is in Taiwan and China. Mediatek is a big customer. As I said in the above blog, their strategy is partially not to be ARM, to be the processor that you can put where the code is not visible to the end user (inside a WiFi chip, for example). There is no compelling reason to use an ARM there and Andes reckon their cores deliver more performance for both area and power than equivalent ARMs. I’m sure Andes is more cost-effective than an ARM license too.

 As I said above:”So what sort of performance do they deliver? With a standard 40LP TSMC library (so not even in 28um) the N1337 delivers 908 MHz and 79 uW/MHz in 0.25mm2, which is 50% higher performance at 1/3 lower power and slightly smaller area than their competition. With a speed optimized library it exceeds the gigahertz barrier (still in 40LP).”

I said in October that Andes had just closed their first US licensee. Now they have several. So you can expect to hear more about them as their US footprint grows. They also closed their first Japanese licensee last summer. I’ll have to find a new name for them once everyone has heard about them, I guess.

The big opportunity is the Internet of Things (IoT) where most of the devices will not be user-programmable so it is a level playing field as to which microprocessor it makes sense to use (unlike in the application processor in a smartphone where the instruction set shows through to all the Apps developers and even someone as established as MIPS doesn’t have traction). On a level playing field, technical specs like power, performance, area, cost all become more important and the instruction set architecture less so.

Andes was founded in 2005 in Hsinchu Science Park (near TSMC). They have over 100 employees located in Taiwan, China, Korea, Japan and US.

 They already have around 80 licensees, and over 60 partners for things like compilers, debuggers and other aspects of a processor ecosystem. Over 6000 people use the AndeSight software development tools. Last October they had shipped over 300M processors. Or rather their licensees had shipped over 300M chips containing Andes processors. Their product line has at least 6 cores in, ranging from N7 and N8 which have simple 3 stage pipelines, all the way up to the N12 and N13 that have 8 stage pipelines.

Find out more on the Andes Technology website here.

More articles by Paul McLellan…

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