Friday, August 21, 2009

Microchip ENC424J600 - Preliminary Tests

Finally the printed circuit boards and all parts arrived and I've got some time to put together the first batch of nic424 boars featuring the new Microchip ENC424J600 Ethernet Controller.

Based on the firmware code distributed with the latest (v5.10) Microchip TCP/IP Stack I customized a MAC driver module specifically for the nic424 and started to run some preliminary tests.

To my surprise I didn't have any problems getting the board up and running on the first try.

To test the Ethernet controller I mounted the nic424 on a solderless prototype breadboard alongside a ProtoPIC28 board populated with a Microchip PIC24HJ128GP202 Microcontroller.

For this first set of tests I'm using the SPI interface with a clock speed of 10MHz and the PIC24HJ running at 80MHz clock speed.

I compiled the TCP/IP Stack with the drivers for the nic424 and only included the ICMP Server module and the TCP Performance Test module.

The first test consisted in sending ICMP ECHO Requests (pings) packets to the PIC24HJ + nic424 from a dual core Pentium machine with Linux running at 2.4GHz, and connecting the Linux server and the nic424 through a Cisco Catalyst C2950 Ethernet Switch.

The Cisco C2950 didn't have any problems negotiating 100Mbps and Full Duplex with the ENC424J600 so I started playing with the payload sizes of the ping packets, going from 32 bytes up to 512 bytes. For each test the Linux server sent over a million packets in flood ping mode, packet loss with all payload sizes was 0% and the TCP/IP Stack didn't hang or reset during the tests.

To have a comparative test, I replaced the nic424 with a nic28 using the Microchip ENC28J60 Ethernet Controller and ran the same tests.

The graph below shows the average Round Trip Time results of the tests with both Ethernet controllers, clearly the ENC424J600 even at the same SPI clock performs faster than the ENC28J60.
After running the ICMP tests, I ran the TCP Performance Test with both controllers. The configuration using the ENC28J60 reported 97,100 Bytes/sec when the configuration using the ENC424J600 reported 134,100 Bytes/sec.

I'm planning to run some additional tests to get some metrics for packets per second and bytes per second taken from the five minute averages computed by the Cisco switch.

I'll mount a nic424 on a PICtail+ prototype board and do some testing with different processors on a Microchip Explorer 16 development board, and also try different parallel interface modes and see how well the crypto engines included in the chip perform.

So far things look very good, average current for the ENC424J600 was consistent with the values shown in the datasheet, around 200mA and the chip does not get too hot.

Don't have a firm date yet but I'll soon make the nic424 available for purchase through the LJCV Electronics site.


Monday, August 3, 2009

New 10/100 Mbps Ethernet Controller from Microchip

About four years ago Microchip debuted in the ethernet controller market with the introduction of the smallest standalone ethernet controller, the ENC28J60.

While embedded application developers looking to add a networking interface to their designs had other options, the ENC28J60 became a very interesting alternative for many applications since it didn't require to use many I/O pins from the MCU to talk with the controller.

Just a few components, the RJ45 with integrated or external magnetics, a simple connection using the SPI interface and voila you were on the 'net courtesy of the free Microchip TCP/IP Stack.

Few months ago we started savoring and playing with samples of a new generation of ethernet controllers to be available from Microchip, the ENC424J600 and ENC624J600. Today, Microchip made the official announcement !!

While some hobbyists will not be extremely happy because the new parts will be only available in 44 and 64-pin TQFP and QFN packages the new controllers have many goodies we were all waiting for, such as:
  • Integrated MAC and PHY for 10/100BaseTX twisted pair ethernet
  • 24 KB of RAM compared to 8K from the ENC28J60
  • How many times folks asked in the Microchip forum where to get the MAC address from ? Now it's on the chip !!, no more hassle you get the chip you have the address !!
  • We still get the simplicity of the SPI interface but on top of that now a multiple mode parallel interface
  • Integrated Security Engine on the chip to support RSA, MD5, Diffie-Hellman and SHA-1 computations
  • Available in two flavors, 44-pin (fewer parallel interface options) and 64-pin
If you can't control your anxiety to put your fingers on this new part and start playing with it, more good news, the 10/100Mbps Ethernet PICtail is available for purchase from Microchip.

In the past few weeks I've been working on a new network interface card similar to the nic28 I produced in the past for the ENC28J60. Just waiting for the first batch of pcbs to arrive and complete testing and documentation.

I'll soon post some pictures and specs for the new nic424 that will become available for purchase through LJCV Electronics.

Happy Networking !!!