AMCC 440GX Project

AMCC 440GX board

As part of some trace research in 2005, an AMCC 440GX processor board with a trace port was purchased. This was our last PowerPC hardware project. The AMCC 440GX with multiple 1 GbE ports shipped around 2004. The 440 was much improved against the 405 core, plus there were 4× 1GbE network ports (two populated on the Avnet board). A Linux port was promised from Avnet which never materialised, but Avnet did offer to return the board. We opted for the OrCAD design files in place of the Linux port, which were provided. The Green Hills Software Slingshot probe is shown on the COP header, with the ribbon cable header shaved a bit to clear the Mictor trace header.

There were enough Linux ports on the AMCC and IBM sites; mostly involving Denx Computer Systems, so the Linux port was not critical. We were more interested in obtaining a trace and real-time research. As we had academic licenses for the Green Hills Software tool chain, we asked their UK office if they could arrange a trace from their SuperTrace unit. A trip was organised from South Africa, and on the Friday afternoon when we were leaving, the GHS office sent a message that they could not make the meeting for the next Tuesday, or for the next two weeks. We never did get to see the SuperTrace unit and they never got a customer—rather simple but we no longer purchased anything we had not touched or held in our own hands, particularly at $10,000. Without a trace unit, the research essentially died.

There were some notes on the 440GX in Debugging Embedded Systems (some early 32-bit work) (PDF) 7,9Meg, but besides experimenting with the Denx UBOOT monitor and initialisation code, not much became of the purchase. We were rather disappointed with Avnet’s lack of any boards for their expansion connectors that could plug into the 440GX or Virtex-II Pro boards. The audio/video boards had the same connector, but the pinouts did not match up. The connectors could not be purchased in low-volume so we never did make any plug-in cards either. AMCC’s fortunes would change, PA Semi announced their PowerPC dual cores, Freescale started to announce some interesting devices, so the AMCC route was short lived.