PowerPC 400

PowerPC 400

The PowerPC 400 family is a line of 32-bit embedded RISC-processor cores built using Power Architecture technology. The cores are designed to fit inside specialized applications ranging from System-on-a-chip (SoC) microcontrollers, network appliances, Application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) and Field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) to set-top boxes, storage devices and supercomputers.

AMCC bought assets concerning the 400 family cores from IBM in April 2004 for $227m, and they now market the processors under their own name. IBM continues evolving the cores while supplying design and foundry services around the cores. Several cores are also available for licensing by OEMs from IBM and Synopsys.


PowerPC 403

Introduced in 1994, the PowerPC 403 was one of the first PowerPC processors. It was the first one targeted strictly to the embedded market. Compared to the other PowerPC processors of the era (PowerPC 601, PowerPC 603 and PowerPC 604), it was at the very low end, lacking a Memory management unit (MMU) or Floating point unit (FPU), for instance. The core was offered for custom chips and in pre packaged versions, including versions with MMU, speeds ranging from 20 to 80 MHz.

The PowerPC 403 is used in, among other appliances, thin clients, set-top boxes, RAID-controllers and printers. The first TiVo used a 54 MHz PowerPC 403GCX.

AMCC acquired the design of 403 from IBM in 2004, but have chosen not to market it, instead focusing on the 405 and 440 cores.

PowerPC 401

While the 403 was popular, it was also too high performance and too costly for some applications, so in 1996 IBM released a bare bones PowerPC core, called PowerPC 401. It has a single issue, 3 stage pipeline, with no MMU or DMA and only 2 kB instruction and 1 kB data L1 caches. The design contained just 85,000 transistors in all and operated at up to 100 MHz, drawing only 0.1W or less. Applications using the 401 core range from set-top boxes and telecom switches to printers and fax machines.
* [http://www.byte.com/art/9608/sec5/art3.htm The PowerPC Goes Consumer, BYTE, Sept 1996]
* [http://www-03.ibm.com/chips/products/digitalvideo/products/ppc.html 401 based Set-top box, IBM]

PowerPC 405

also offers a fully synthesized cores. IBM has announced plans to make the specifications of the PowerPC 405 core freely available to the academic and research community. [http://www.power.org/news/articles/405download/]

PowerPC 405 based applications includes digital cameras, modems, set-top boxes (IBM's STB04xxx processors [http://www-01.ibm.com/chips/techlib/techlib.nsf/products/STB043xx_-_STB045xx_Set-Top_Box_Integrated_Controllers] ), cellphones, GPS-devices, printers, fax machines, Network cards, storage devices and service processors for servers. Up to two 405 cores are used in Xilinx Virtex-II Pro and Virtex-4 FPGAs. In 2004 Hifn bought IBM's PowerNP network processors that uses 405 cores. [http://www.hifn.com/uploadedFiles/Company/News_and_Events/Press_Releases/20040105.pdf]
* [http://www-01.ibm.com/chips/techlib/techlib.nsf/techdocs/A07CE56994E69BFE0025731C005C9BFE/$file/ppc405S_um_01_pub.pdf PPC405-S Embedded Processor Core User’s Manual]


The Chinese company Culturecom uses a 405 core for its V-Dragon processor which powers Linux terminals and set-top-boxes. The V-Dragon processor includes the Multilingual Character Generation Engine (MCGE) that processes and generates Chinese characters directly in the CPU. [http://www.culturecom.com.hk/en/index.php?bx_vdragon]

PowerPC 440

Introduced in 1999, the PowerPC 440 was the first PowerPC core from IBM to include the "Book E" extension to the PowerPC specification. It also included the CoreConnect bus technology designed to be the interface between the parts inside a PowerPC based System-on-a-chip (SoC) device.

It is a high performance core with separate 32 kB instruction and data L1 caches, a 7 stage pipeline, supporting speeds up to 800 MHz and L2 cache up to 256 kB. The core lacks a floating point unit (FPU) but it has an associated 4 stage FPU that can be included using the APU (Auxiliary Processing Unit) interface. The 440 core adheres to the current Power ISA v.2.03 using the Book III-E specification.

Xilinx currently incorporates one or two cores (depending on the member of the family) into the Virtex5FXT FPGA.

Both AMCC and IBM are developing and marketing stand alone processors using 440 cores. IBM and Synopsys also offers a fully synthesized cores.


QCDOC is custom made supercomputer built to solve small but extremely demanding problems in the fields of quantum physics. it uses 440 based custom ASICs to peak around 10 TFLOPS.

Blue Gene/L

Dual 440 cores are used in the processors powering IBM's Blue Gene/L supercomputer which as of mid-2005 ranks number one on the list of the top 500 supercomputers around the world, by 2008 with a peak performance of nearly 500 teraFLOPS.


The 440 core is also used in the Cray XT3, XT4 and XT5 supercomputers, where its SeaStar, SeaStar2 and SeaStar2+ communication processors closely couples HyperTransport memory interface with routing to other nodes in supercomputer clusters. The SeaStar device provides a 6.4 GB/s connection to the Opteron based processors across HyperTransport (together making a processing element, PE), as well as six 7.6 GB/s links to neighboring PEs. SeaStar2+ offers 9.6 GB/s intra-node bandwidth and error correcting functionality so intercept errors en-route between computing nodes.

AMCC 460

The PowerPC 460EX and 460GT from AMCC are, despite their name, processors with the 440 core. 600 MHz-1.2 GHz, including controllers for DDR/DDR2 SDRAM, USB2, PCIe, SATA, Gigabit ethernet.

Virtex-5 FXT

In its Virtex-5 FXT FPGA product line, Xilinx embeds up to two PPC440 cores. The embedded PPC440 has a maximum frequency of 550MHz, and connects to the surrounding FPGA-fabric through a special crossbar switch, increasing the 5FXT's system performance over 2.6 times compared to the Virtex-4/FX's embedded PPC405.

Acalis CPU872

The Acalis CPU872 is a highly specialized SoC called a Field Programmable MultiCore (FPMC) chip built by [http://cputech.com/ CPU Tech] . It is designed for highly sensitive and mission critical systems such as military applications. It has provisions to prevent tampering and reverse engineering and is manufactured at IBM's highly secure Trusted Foundry. It has embedded DRAM, dual 440 cores with dual precision FPUs and auxiliary computing units providing acceleration and protection for communications, complex algorithms and synchronization between cores. [http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/news/sections/?ndmViewId=news_view&newsLang=en&newsId=20080428005402]

PowerPC 450

The processing core of the Blue Gene/P supercomputer designed and manufactured by IBM. It is very similar to the PowerPC 440 but few details are disclosed. The Blue Gene/P processor consists of four PowerPC 450 cores running at 850 MHz reaching 13.6 gigaflops in total. IBM is claiming very power efficient design compared to other supercomputer processors.
* [http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/21791.wss IBM Triples Performance of World's Fastest, Most Energy-Efficient Supercomputer]

PowerPC 460

Introduced in 2006, the 460 cores are similar to 440 but reaches 1.4 GHz, are developed with multi-core applications in mind and have 24 additional Digital signal processing (DSP) instructions. The cores are designed to be low-power but high performance and the 464-H90 is expected to draw only 0.53W at 1 GHz. The 460 core adheres to Power ISA v.2.03 using the Book III-E specification.

* PowerPC 460S - A completely synthesized core and can be licensed for manufacturing on different foundries.
* PowerPC 464-H90 - A 90 nm, hard core (not synthesizable), released in 2006, will offer a customizable core for ASICs that can be manufactured with IBM or at manufacturing facilities at [http://www.charteredsemi.com/ Chartered] or Samsung.
* PowerPC 464FP-H90 - Releasedin 2007, is a hard core that adds a double precision floating point unit (FPU).


AMCC's PowerPC 460SX and 460GTx are based on the 464P core. They are targeted towards very high end storage applications and networking respectively. They run at 0.8-1.4 GHz, have 512 kB L2 cache witch doubles as SRAM storage, DDR2 memory controller, 4x Gigabit Ethernet controllers, PCIe controllers and a variety of application specific accelerators and controller facilities. They are manufactured on a 90 nm process.

IBM will release more hard 460 based cores in the future. PowerPC 465 and 466 are on the roadmap but configurations remain unknown.

See also

* Power.org
* Power Architecture
* CoreConnect


* [http://www-03.ibm.com/chips/power/powerpc/cores/ppc405.html IBM PowerPC 405 core]
* [http://www-03.ibm.com/chips/power/powerpc/cores/ppc440.html IBM PowerPC 440 core]
* [http://www-03.ibm.com/chips/power/powerpc/cores/ppc460.html IBM PowerPC 460 core]
* [http://www.amcc.com/Embedded/ AMCC PowerPC 400 page]

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