Southbridge (computing)

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A typical north/southbridge layout Chipset schematic.svg
A typical north/southbridge layout
A part of an IBM T42 laptop motherboard, with the following labels: CPU (central processing unit), NB (northbridge), GPU (graphics processing unit), and SB (southbridge). IBM ThinkPad T42 Motherboard.jpg
A part of an IBM T42 laptop motherboard, with the following labels: CPU (central processing unit), NB (northbridge), GPU (graphics processing unit), and SB (southbridge).

The southbridge is one of the two chips in the core logic chipset on a personal computer (PC) motherboard, the other being the northbridge. The southbridge typically implements the slower capabilities of the motherboard in a northbridge/southbridge chipset computer architecture. In systems with Intel chipsets, the southbridge is named I/O Controller Hub (ICH), while AMD has named its southbridge Fusion Controller Hub (FCH) since the introduction of its Fusion AMD Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) while moving the functions of the Northbridge onto the CPU die, hence making it similar in function to the Platform hub controller.

Contents

The southbridge can usually be distinguished from the northbridge by not being directly connected to the CPU. Rather, the northbridge ties the southbridge to the CPU. Through the use of controller integrated channel circuitry, the northbridge can directly link signals from the I/O units to the CPU for data control and access.

Current status

Due to the push for system-on-chip (SoC) processors, modern devices increasingly have the northbridge integrated into the CPU die itself;[ further explanation needed ] examples are Intel's Sandy Bridge [1] and AMD's Fusion processors, [2] both released in 2011. The southbridge became redundant and it was replaced by the Platform Controller Hub (PCH) architecture introduced with the Intel 5 Series chipset in 2008 while AMD did the same with the release of their first APUs in 2011, naming the PCH the Fusion controller hub (FCH), which was only used on AMD's APUs until 2017 when it began to be used on AMD's Zen architecture while dropping the FCH name. On Intel platforms, all southbridge features and remaining I/O functions are managed by the PCH which is directly connected to the CPU via the Direct Media Interface (DMI). [3] Intel low power processor (Haswell-U and onward) and Ultra low power processor (Haswell-Y and onward) also integrated an on-package PCH. Based on its Chiplet design, AMD Ryzen processor also integrated some southbridge function, such as some USB interface and some SATA/NVMe interface. [4]

Overview

A southbridge chipset handled many of a computer's I/O functions, such as USB, Audio, the system BIOS, the ISA bus or the LPC bus, the low speed PCI/PCIe bus, the IOAPIC interrupt controller, the SATA storage, the historical PATA storage, and the NVMe storage. [5] [6] Different combinations of Southbridge and Northbridge chips are possible, [7] but these two kinds of chips must be designed to work together; [8] [9] there is no industry-wide standard for interoperability between different core logic chipset designs. In 1990s and early 2000s, the interface between a northbridge and southbridge was the PCI bus. The main bridging interfaces used now are DMI (Intel) and UMI (AMD).

Etymology

The name is derived from representing the architecture in the fashion of a map and was first described as such with the introduction of the PCI Local Bus Architecture in 1991. At Intel, the authors of the PCI specification viewed the PCI local bus as being at the very centre of the PC platform architecture (i.e., at the Equator).

The northbridge extends to the north of the PCI bus backbone in support of CPU, memory/cache, and other performance-critical capabilities. Likewise the southbridge extends to the south of the PCI bus backbone and bridges to less performance-critical I/O capabilities such as the disk interface, audio, etc.

The CPU is located at the top of the map at due north. The CPU is connected to the chipset via a fast bridge (the northbridge) located north of other system devices as drawn. The northbridge is connected to the rest of the chipset via a slow bridge (the southbridge) located south of other system devices as drawn.

Although the current PC platform architecture has replaced the PCI bus backbone with faster I/O backbones, the bridge naming convention remains.

Functionality

Diagram of an old motherboard, which supports many on-board peripheral functions as well as several expansion slots. Motherboard diagram.svg
Diagram of an old motherboard, which supports many on-board peripheral functions as well as several expansion slots.

The functionality found in a contemporary southbridge includes: [9] [6]

Optionally, a southbridge also includes support (onboard discrete chip or southbridge-integrated) for Ethernet, Wi-Fi, RAID, Thunderbolt, and Out-of-band management.

See also

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Front-side bus

A front-side bus (FSB) is a computer communication interface (bus) that was often used in Intel-chip-based computers during the 1990s and 2000s. The EV6 bus served the same function for competing AMD CPUs. Both typically carry data between the central processing unit (CPU) and a memory controller hub, known as the northbridge.

Chipset Set of electronic components in an integrated circuit

In a computer system, a chipset is a set of electronic components in an integrated circuit known as a "Data Flow Management System" that manages the data flow between the processor, memory and peripherals. It is usually found on the motherboard. Chipsets are usually designed to work with a specific family of microprocessors. Because it controls communications between the processor and external devices, the chipset plays a crucial role in determining system performance.

Northbridge (computing) One of the two chips in the core logic chipset architecture on a PC motherboard

A northbridge or host bridge is one of the two chips in the core logic chipset architecture on a PC motherboard, the other being the southbridge. Unlike the southbridge, the northbridge is connected directly to the CPU via the front-side bus (FSB) and is thus responsible for tasks that require the highest performance. The northbridge, also known as Memory Controller Hub, is usually paired with a southbridge. In systems where they are included, these two chips manage communications between the CPU and other parts of the motherboard, and constitute the core logic chipset of the PC motherboard.

Silicon Integrated Systems

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Geode (processor)

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Low Pin Count

The Low Pin Count bus, or LPC bus, is a computer bus used on IBM-compatible personal computers to connect low-bandwidth devices to the CPU, such as the BIOS ROM, "legacy" I/O devices, and Trusted Platform Module (TPM). "Legacy" I/O devices usually include serial and parallel ports, PS/2 keyboard, PS/2 mouse, and floppy disk controller.

Intel Hub Architecture (IHA) was Intel's architecture for the 8xx family of chipsets, starting in 1999 with the Intel 810. It uses a memory controller hub (MCH) that is connected to an I/O controller hub (ICH) via a 266 MB/s bus. The MCH chip supports memory and AGP, while the ICH chip provides connectivity for PCI, USB, sound, IDE hard disks and LAN.

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In computing, Direct Media Interface (DMI) is Intel's proprietary link between the northbridge and southbridge on a computer motherboard. It was first used between the 9xx chipsets and the ICH6, released in 2004. Previous Intel chipsets had used the Intel Hub Architecture to perform the same function, and server chipsets use a similar interface called Enterprise Southbridge Interface (ESI). While the "DMI" name dates back to ICH6, Intel mandates specific combinations of compatible devices, so the presence of a DMI interface does not guarantee by itself that a particular northbridge–southbridge combination is allowed.

I/O Controller Hub (ICH) is a family of Intel southbridge microchips used to manage data communications between a CPU and a motherboard, specifically Intel chipsets based on the Intel Hub Architecture. It is designed to be paired with a second support chip known as a northbridge. As with any other southbridge, the ICH is used to connect and control peripheral devices.

PCI IDE ISA Xcelerator (PIIX), also known as Intel 82371, is a family of Intel southbridge microchips employed in some Intel chipsets. x86 virtualization implementations often support emulations of various PIIX-based chipsets.

Intel X58

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Platform Controller Hub

The Platform Controller Hub (PCH) is a family of Intel's single-chip chipsets, first introduced in 2009. It is the successor to the Intel Hub Architecture, which used two chips - a northbridge and southbridge instead, and first appeared in the Intel 5 Series.

Intel 5 Series is a computing architecture introduced in 2008 that improves the efficiency and balances the use of communication channels in the motherboard. The architecture consists primarily of a central processing unit (CPU) and a single chipset. All motherboard communications and activities circle around these two devices.

The Intel X79 is a Platform Controller Hub (PCH) designed and manufactured by Intel for their LGA 2011 and LGA 2011-1.

SATA Express Computer device interface

SATA Express is a computer bus interface that supports both Serial ATA (SATA) and PCI Express (PCIe) storage devices, initially standardized in the SATA 3.2 specification. The SATA Express connector used on the host side is backward compatible with the standard SATA data connector, while it also provides two PCI Express lanes as a pure PCI Express connection to the storage device.

References

  1. Vatto, Kristian. "Why Ivy Bridge is still Quad-core?". Anandtech. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  2. Stokes, Jon. "With Fusion, AMD's devils are in the details". Arstechnica. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  3. "Mobile Intel HM57 Express Chipset". Intel. Retrieved 2014-04-21.
  4. Hagedoorn, Hilbert. "AMD Ryzen 3000: New Block diagram about PCIe 4.0 on Matisse and X570 chipset". Guru3D.com. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  5. "What is Southbridge?", Webopedia Computer Dictionary (word definition).
  6. 1 2 Mujtaba, Hassan (2019-09-13). "Intel Z490, H470 Motherboards For 10th Gen Comet Lake-S CPUs Leaked". Wccftech. Retrieved 2020-10-30.
  7. Chipset: Northbridge and Southbridge, Rigacci.
  8. What is northbridge, southbridge, how northbridge, southbridge works, Edu soft max.
  9. 1 2 What is a chipset?, UK: Misco.