Lexra did implement a 32-bit variant of the MIPS architecture. Noteworthy architectural feature was the lack of the MIPS I instructions
lwl, lwr, swl and
swr that optimize the handling of unaligned loads. Later the LX4580 core added hardware multithreading. Products implementing Lexra's architecture include the LX4080, LX4080P, LX4180, LX4280 and LX5280, LX8000. Today Lexra is a defunct company. Several key employees of Lexra founded the digital video core company Ultra Data Corporation, the intellectual property assets of which have since been acquired. Many other key Lexra employees, including co-founder and CEO, Charlie Cheng, now work for ASIC vendor Faraday Technology in Taiwan, Sunnyvale, CA, and Framingham, MA. Lexra co-founder and CTO Pat Hays is now vice president of engineering for MIPS Technologies, Inc. in Mountain View.
Jonah Probell has written a history of Lexra
lwl, lwr, swl and
swr are covered by US patent 4,814,976. Lexra therefore choose to implement these instructions by software emulation. In the 1999 - 2002 lawsuit of MIPS Technologies, Inc. vs. Lexra, Inc. about violation of this and a second patent, Lexra and MIPS reached an agreement and the court never ruled on the matter. Which means it isn't clear if Linux can or cannot legally emulate the instructions.
The '976 patent will expire December 23, 2006.
Instructions emulator sourcecode from Lexra exists as Linux MIPS kernel patches and available under GPL license.
Technically support for Lexra processors without adding emulation of these instructions would be possible but the question is how much sense it would make as some software may rely on it fairly heavily. A gcc patch that don't generate these instructions can be found on gcc mailling list.
Following the lawsuit Lexra became a MIPS32 license. MIPS later acquired Lexra's IP. This resulted in the end of Lexra's former products and so at this time there also seems to be little interest in actually adding Linux support.
Realtek RTL8181, RTL8186, RTL8650/RTL8651 SoCs are using Lexra core.
Analog are also using Lexra core for their networking processors.
- US Patent 4,814,976
- MIPS Technologies, Inc. press release about the Lexra case
- LX5280 at webarchive
- LX4180 at webarchive