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Quad-core Cortex-A15 SoC features 6MB on-chip RAM

Sep 9, 2014 — by Eric Brown 5,411 views

TI has launched a Linux-friendly, 1.4GHz quad-core Cortex-A15 AM5K2Ex Keystone II SoC, that runs at under 10W and offers 10GbE switches and 6MB on-chip RAM.

Like the Texas Instruments Sitara AMx5 system-on-chip announced earlier this year, the AM5K2Ex uses the ARM Cortex-A15 architecture. However, the AM5K2Ex is part of TI’s higher-end, server and networking focused Keystone II family of processors, and offers four Cortex-A15 cores instead of the AMx5’s initial allotment of two. The AM5K2Ex is claimed to be TI’s “first infrastructure-grade embedded multicore ARM device.”

AM5K2E block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Previous 66AK2x Keystone SoC models have combined two or four Cortex-A15 cores with one or more TI DSPs. On the AM5K2Ex, however, DSPs are optional. KeyStone II features available on the SoC are said to include 8,000 atomic hardware queues, a TeraNet on-chip interconnect with more than 2Tbps (terabits per second) throughput, and TI’s Multicore Navigator programming environment.

The AM5K2Ex is designed for avionics and defense, industrial routing and switching, enterprise gateway, and general-purpose embedded controllers, says TI. In particular, the SoC adheres to military guidelines for optimized size, weight and power (SWAP), says the company. Unlike the Sitara SoCs, it lacks a PRU-ICSS (Programmable Real-Time Unit and Industrial Communication Subsystem), but like all of TI’s SoCs, it ships with Linux support.


With its four, 1.4GHz Cortex-A15 cores, the AM5K2Ex offers up to 19600 DMIPS performance while running at under 10W. In fact, when running at a temperate of 55°C, it consumes as little as 6-8 Watts, claims TI.

6MB of on-chip memory

The AM5K2Ex boasts 6MB of on-chip RAM, including a coherent 4MB of L2 cache with ECC, which is more than any other TI ARM SoC. The other 2MB is designated as shared memory.

ECC or parity support is provided for all on-chip and external memory interfaces for greater reliability, says TI. The system offers the company’s multicore shared memory controller (MSMC) technology, and supports DDR3/3L 1600MHz SDRAM with ECC. The SoC also provides five 64-channel EDMA lanes.

Designed for carrier-grade networking, the AM5K2Ex provides an 8-port, gigabit Ethernet switch, as well as a 2-port 10 gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) switch. The SoC is equipped with both a security accelerator (IPSec/SRT) and packet accelerator (IPv4/IPv6, Layer 2-4). Other notable features include a power management system that can shut down unused cores or peripherals, and can bring them back online quickly when the processing load increases.

The AM5K2Ex supports -40 to 100°C temperatures, and offers a lifecycle of 100,000 power-on hours (POH), claims TI. The SoC is also said to provide SER (Soft Error Rates) that meet the reliability requirements of the industrial and defense markets.

In addition to the aforementioned Ethernet switches, high-speed I/O supported on the AM5K2Ex includes dual USB 3.0 ports, PCI Express Gen2, at up to 10Gbps, and a HyperLink interface for up to 50 Gbaud for chip-to-chip interconnects. Additional I/O includes three I2C interfaces, three SPI interfaces, EMIF 16, EMAC, TSIP, PWM, and dual UARTs.

TI ships the AM5K2Ex with the mainline Linux SDK it announced in March. The chipmaker also provides C66x DSP libraries, and supports third party RTOS offerings including Wind River VxWorks and Green Hills Integrity.

XEVMK2EX reference board

A XEVMK2EX hardware reference design used for the 66AK2x Keystone processors also supports the new AM5K2Ex. The 7.11 x 2.89-inch development board is equipped with 4GB DDR3 RAM, 512MB NAND flash, and 128MB NOR flash.

XEVMK2EX reference board
(click image to enlarge)

The XEVMK2EX reference design features dual gigabit Ethernet ports, a USB 3.0 port, a mini-USB port, and various serial interfaces available via a 120-pin expansion header. It also provides an onboard XDS200 emulator, as well as support for external emulation via a MIPI 60-pin connector. Power options include a 12V/5A DC power-brick adapter and an AMC carrier backplane. TI’s DCode Composer Studio version 5 is available for development.

Further information

TI’s AM5K2Ex SoC is available now for $155 in units of 1,000 or more, while the XEVMK2EX development board goes for $999. More information may be found at the AM5K2Ex product page and in the AM5K2Ex white paper.

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