Intel’s Tunnel Creek supports 3rd party I/O hubs

A new business model from Intel

INTEL UNVEILED ITS Queensbay Atom platform for embedded systems at IDF Beijing, although that in itself isn’t all that interesting because Intel’s Atom processors in themselves rarely are. However, what is interesting is the fact that Intel will allow third party I/O hubs to be used, which is an entirely new strategy from Intel and a big opportunity for a lot of companies out there.

Intel will of course offer its own generic I/O hub for the Tunnel Creek Atom CPUs, or SoC’s as Intel now seems to like to refer to its Atom processors. Intel’s I/O hub has a wide range of features such as a SATA controller, Gigabit Ethernet (minus the PHY), a USB host controller, an SDIO controller and of course a few PCI Express lanes and various other interfaces that aren’t so commonly used.

Intel has come up with a few scenarios of third party applications including in-vehicle infotainment, IP media phones and premise service gateways, and it has provided examples of the various types of I/O hubs that third party vendors could make for the Tunnel Creek CPU. Some of these I/O hubs have a lot of additional features such as serial port interfaces, video streaming components and I2C/I2S buses to mention a few.

Why would Intel do this? Well, primarily to sell more embedded CPUs and try to create a bigger ecosystem for its Atom processors. This new more flexible approach sure beats the current Menlow platform that is still being used for embedded systems, as it doesn’t offer customization to this level. Interestingly it seems like Intel has abandoned both the front side bus and the DMI bus for the Tunnel Creek and is simply running a standard PCI Express interface between the CPU packaging and the I/O hub.

The Tunnel Creek CPU doesn’t look that different from Pine View in terms of features, as beyond the processor core it features an IGP and a memory controller, although what is new is that the audio and LPC controllers are now also located inside the CPU rather than in the I/O hub or as an external chip in the latter case. An audio codec should still be required though. You can find more details by downloading a PDF of Doug Davis’ presentation from IDF which you can find here.S|A

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