Qualcomm has just announced that it is introducing a line of Internet Processor (IPQ, the Q stands for Qualcomm) that will provide higher performance for connected devices like routers and other Internet appliances that may need to handle high data throughput. When we discussed with Todd Antes from Qualcomm-Atheros, he said that in Qualcomm’s own estimations, a number of Internet devices were limited by their network processing power, instead of their maximum theoretical bandwidth. With these IPQ chips, Qualcomm’s customers should be able to provide faster products.
The IPQ chips draw from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon experience and from the network capabilities brought by Atheros, which was previously acquired by Qualcomm. The new chips are built around two Krait CPU cores, which are already in use in many smartphones. But instead having multimedia co-processors (GPU, video encode/decode…), they have Network co-processors like Atheros’ dual-core 730 MHz Packet Processor Engine that can handle up to 5Gbps of network traffic from multiple source. There is also a logic block that handles encryption in hardware.
Qualcomm would not comment about the die size of the new chip, but its dual-core nature and the lack of GPU would suggest that it has substantially less transistors than the latest Snapdragon chips. It means that it will be cheaper to produce, and therefore a candidate for integration in more devices.
The first products are going to be named IPQ8064 and IPQ8062, and you can expect to find them in WiFi AC routers for example. Other Internet appliances are also targeted, and because the IPQ chips can support most popular data interfaces (PCIe, USB 3.0, SATA3, SDIO, and Gigabit Ethernet), it is fair to say that it could be integrated in any device that needs this kind of network processing muscle. Although multimedia apps come to mind, industrial workloads such as video-surveillance could also greatly benefit from the speed and the hardware encryption.
Interestingly, Qualcomm also mentioned that their tests showed a 2X power efficiency relative to existing solutions. If we wanted to speculate a bit and assume that the power envelope is similar, it would mean that Qualcomm’s chip is 2X faster. That said, I think that power-efficiency is more important than raw speed here. The truth is that most of the time, your router does very little and is far from operating at peak performance.
A Qualcomm-powered router coming near you soon? Probably, but we will know more at CES when hardware partners will announce their new line-up.