Facing nextgen multicore design challenges

April 28, 2014

Bernard Cole-April 28, 2014

Opening next week for its ninth year is the Multicore Developers Conference. I have for most of its life tried to attend it each year because the speakers and panels give me a good snapshot of the technical challenges that embedded developers are facing at a given point in time.

While not all embedded developers need the processing power that multicore architectures deliver, many of the high-growth applications do. And as we have all learned over the last decade, what is today's high-end, bleeding-edge design is often tomorrow's mainstream product.

This year is no different. Reviewing the various classes and presentations at the conference it is clear the drive toward more performance and lower power in all segments is requiring designers to use more than just one or two cores.

Many next-generation mobile platforms have SoC designs in development that are moving toward eight to ten cores. And makers of  game platforms, and even large-screen, high-definition, Internet-enabled televisions are now demanding multicore SoC designs that verge on edge of the many-core complexity associated with high performance scientific computing. The designs are also heterogeneous in the extreme, mixing various kinds of accelerators and specialized cores for such things as graphics, but also cores of varying performance capabilities and byte widths.

The articles in this week's Embedded Tech Focus newsletter been chosen because they address some of the trends to be discussed at the conference. It also includes several brief "poster" articles on topics the authors will be delving into in much greater depth at the Multicore Developers Conference, including:

In "A portable multicore runtime library based on embedded industry standards," the University of Houston authors discuss LibEOMP, a new portable OpenMP runtime library for multicore embedded systems that exploits the capabilities of the Multicore Association (MCA) application programming interfaces.

"Protecting multicore designs without compromising performance," by Steve Singer, INSIDE Secure. As data rates climb and malicious software attacks escalate, traditional approaches to security will have to be replaced by integrating protection directly into the multicore-based Intelligent Packet Engine hardware IP.

"Picking the right multicore architecture for your compute-intensive app," by Steve Olsen, Wind River Systems. In multicore designs, is it better to run just one OS domain with all cores and threads scheduled from a single OS domain or divide responsibilities among many individual OS domains?

"Developing a heterogeneous multicore SoC for use in a mobile environment," Imagination's Peter McGuinness recounts his company's experience in porting disparate applications to run delegated to the GPU, and reports on lessons learned.

At the Multicore Devcon, there are a number of classes and presentations that will be of interest to all embedded developers whether they are using just two or three cores or dozens or hundreds, including: hardware/software codesign, software defined networking, smartphones, software standards, security and software certification.

Below are my Editor's Top Picks of recent design articles and conference and journal papers on Embedded.com that reflect the topics to be discussed at the conference:

Heterogeneous multi-core platform for consumer multimedia apps
A Light-weight API for Portable Multicore Programming
C-Lock: Energy Efficient Synchronization for Embedded Multicore Systems
Disciplined multicore programming in C
Fine-grained power management for multi-core systems

Embedded.com Site Editor Bernard Cole is also editor of the twice-a-week Embedded.com newsletters as well as a partner in the TechRite Associates editorial services consultancy. He welcomes your feedback. Send an email to bccole@acm.org, or call 928-525-9087.

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