Have you ever heard of Centaur Technology? You might not have, but as a wholly owned subsidiary of VIA, Centaur Technology, has spent years designing high performance, x86 compatible microprocessors. Centaur Technology has been in the news a lot this year with the announcement of the VIA Isaiah Architecture. The 65 nanometer Isaiah processor was designed with performance per watt in mind and is taken the market by storm since VIA started showing off performance numbers just a few months ago. The main competition for the VIA Isaiah processor would be the Intel Atom processor, which Isaiah is very competitive with. Not bad for a company based in Austin, Texas that has a group of 100 engineers and microprocessor designers! While they don’t nearly have the budget that Intel has, but they manage to get product on the market. Being the underdog isn’t a bad thing though as Centaur has achieved the fastest design cycle in the industry, with new designs going from concept to completion in about 9 months (1/3 the time of their competitors). With ultra mobile portable devices (UMPD) taking off faster than expected Centaur Technology seems to have launched the Isaiah processor at just the right time. VIA also claims that the Isaiah Architecture is the World’s most power-efficient x86 processor architecture. Late last week I had a chance to visit Centaur, so instead of doing the usual launch article I spent a day with Centaur, which just happened to be the day they announced the Nano processor series.
The first thing I noticed when walking into Centaur Technologies right after the elevator is that they have a good number of patents that revolve around the x86 processor. The 134 individual patents shown above is just part of how many they have as the oposite wall was also covered. After taking a look at the patents and sitting my things down I got a chance to meet Glenn Henry, who is the President of Centaur and is the same individual that founded the company back in 1995.
The first pit stop on our tour was Centaur’s own raised floor data center that is packed full of Dell small form factor Intel Pentium 4 and Core 2 Duo/Quad machines that run software simulations 24 hours a day for processor testing. Outside the building Centaur invested in a diesel backup generator to ensure that the data crunching goes on no matter what the weather is like outside. I asked if Centaur leased these systems and was informed they were all outright purchased and that when they are retired/replaced that Centaur employees end up with them.
After leaving the data center I got a chance to peak into the software library, where Centaur keeps hard copies applications that they use for testing. Most of the above CD/DVD cases were game titles and these were all legitimate copies! What are they testing you ask?