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6 March 2020

Marvell adds Octeon Fusion base station processor to 5G portfolio

Meanwhile, Marvell is the main flag-waver for the ARM architecture in cloud and telecoms infrastructure, and has an increasingly rich portfolio addressing most elements from macro and small cell base stations to cloud and edge servers to gateways, routers and firewalls.

The new generation of its Octeon infrastructure processors, TX2, claims to deliver 2.5 times better performance than the previous generation “to meet requirements for packet data processing, the incorporation of encryption algorithms for end-to-end security, and high end firewall crypto offoad,” as John Sakamoto, VP of the infrastructure processor business unit, put it.

The Octeon TX2 family combines up to 36 cores, based on the Arm v8-A architecture, with programmable hardware accelerator blocks, connected by Marvell’s coherent interconnect.

The processors come in four families (CN91xx, CN92xx, CN96xx and CN98xx, with speeds ranging from 20Gbps to 200Gbps. Their key target markets are 5G, edge, cloud, network security and data center appliances.

Launching alongside the TX2 was the Octeon Fusion wireless infrastructure processor for base stations – including baseband and radio units (RUs) supporting various functional splits between the CU, DU and RU in a disaggregated RAN. The product merges a Layer 1 processor and the Octeon TX2 and so is suited to Layer 1 processing in traditional integrated base stations, or the DU in a disaggregated 5G architecture.

Fusion adds programmable DSP cores and baseband accelerators to TX2. System designers can scale the number of cores to address different base station types, from the high end of small cells to large macrocells. The range includes processing solutions for smart radio heads, which require considerable compute power to support the complex beamforming associated with Massive MIMO.

Fusion is positioned as an alternative to vendors developing an ASIC inhouse, promising “the performance of an ASIC but still the flexibility of a processor”, as John Schimpf, senior director of product marketing, put it. He added that Octeon Fusion can support an upgrade from 4G to 5G in software.

The two Octeon platforms sit alongside the high end ThunderX2 processor to form a triangle of chips to support RAN.

Both the TX2 and Fusion chips are available in custom varieties which allow equipment makers to integrate their own intellectual property (IP). This is seen in an extension of Marvell’s relationship with its foundational 5G networks customer, Samsung, to new areas of the RAN, including Massive MIMO. The two companies are addressing challenges of high frequency spectrum and very low latency by  developing highly integrated solutions based on Octeon Fusion, with Samsung’s own IP too.

Samsung gives Marvell some of the credit for being able to break into the RAN market by developing strong expertise in millimeter wave 5G, in particular. The two firms have a strategic partnership which they extended to 5G last year, and have now expanded again.