New low-power chip company to debut in October

P.A. Semi is led by industry veteran Dan Dobberpuhl

A highly regarded group of chip designers is preparing to unveil a new company next month that will focus on designing low-power chips for blade servers and portable devices.

P.A. Semi, led by industry veteran Dan Dobberpuhl, will emerge from stealth mode at the Fall Processor Forum in late October. According to the company's sparse Web site, it is a fabless semiconductor company focused on designing low-power, high-performance processors for blade servers, networking devices, and portable consumer devices.

Dobberpuhl was last seen at Broadcom, which acquired his SiByte embedded processor company in 2000. SiByte designed high-performance networking processors using MIPS Technologies' chip design architecture.

P.A. Semi is expected to pick up where SiByte left off, with low-power multicore MIPS designs that still deliver remarkable performance, according to one source familiar with the company's plans. A P.A. Semi spokeswoman declined to comment on the company's products but confirmed Dobberpuhl is leading the company.

Dobberpuhl was one of the driving forces behind the Alpha processor, which is on its way out of the computing world now but is still regarded by many analysts and engineers as one of the most innovative processor designs of its time, or any time. Alpha was the fastest processor in the world when it was introduced in 1992 by Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC)

The chip industry is making a historic shift away from measuring performance by clock speed, another trend recognized by Dobberpuhl years ago. He helped DEC design the StrongARM processor using an architecture developed by Arm. This low-power design was quickly adopted for embedded devices and eventually was bought by Intel. Today it is known as XScale.

Dobberpuhl won the 2003 Solid-State Circuits Technical Field Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for his contributions to chip design.

P.A. Semi has assembled an equally impressive roster of design-room names within the chip industry, according to sources familiar with the company. For example, Jim Keller helped Advanced Micro Devices' current processor head, Dirk Meyer, design the Opteron and Athlon 64 processors. Pete Bannon worked at DEC with Dobberpuhl on the Alpha processor and was recently a fellow at Intel working on Tukwila, a future multicore Itanium 2 processor.

"He and the guys he's assembled certainly do have excellent reputations," said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst with Insight 64, in Saratoga, California, after learning of the lineup at P.A. Semi.

More details about P.A. Semi's plans will be unveiled at The Microprocessor Report's Fall Processor Forum, scheduled for Oct. 24-27 in San Jose, California.

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