CMX-MicroNet: True TCP/IP for 8-Bit Processors

These are exciting times for the embeddedsystems industry. Internet access has proliferated to such anextent that soon everyone and everything will need to get online orbe obsolete. The need for connectivity applies not only to thelarge, 32-bit processor-based systems, but also to 8- and 16-bitprocessor products.

Engineers doing current initial product designs should seriouslyconsider integrating Internet applications. CMX Systems, a providerof 8- and 16-bit microprocessors, has watched this evolvingphenomenon with great interest.

Extensive experience provides CMX with a unique perspective onthe 8-bit marketplace. When CMX decided to create a TCP/IP stackfor an 8-bit processor, it challenged the notion that an 8-bitprocessor is a hopeless development environment because it does nothave enough power or memory. CMX also rejected the erroneousconclusion that kludgy work-arounds and/or other questionableapproaches are acceptable because they are the only ways to providetools for these pitiful 8-bit devices.

We concluded that certain conditions must be met to truly satisfy theneeds of the market:

  1. No proprietary protocols.
    TCP/IP and its related standard protocols are what engineers wantand need, and there is no need to adulterate them with new andimproved protocols.
  2. No black box environments.
    Embedded engineers absolutely need to have access to the completesource code of the networking tools that they work with.
  3. No high memory requirements.
    If the connectivity solution is greater than the typical ROM/RAMprovided on an average 8-bit device, it is a poor solution.
  4. No additional hardware or software add-ons, such as gateways oragents.
    Why not just run TCP/IP as it was meant to be run?
  5. No royalties on deployed products nor prohibitivepricing.
    The 8-bit market is, by its very nature, cost sensitive. Offering aproduct that costs too much either up-front or throughout thelifecycle of the product is not a good solution.

CMX-MicroNet is a TCP/IP stack that actually resides and runsnatively on 8-bit processors. Running on an 8051 device requiresbetween 2.5K and 12K of ROM, depending upon the configuration andprotocols utilized. The 12K of ROM includes the core, TCP, UDP,SLIP, PPP, IP, Virtual File System, modem, and HTTP Web server. The12K runs stand alone or with an RTOS, and currently offers dial upor direct connectivity. RAM requirements vary depending upon theactual application, but start at about 160 bytes.

Future enhancements will include support for FTP, TFTP, SMTP,and POP3, and the addition of SNMP (V1 and V2) to work towards ourgoal of reducing the software footprint to fit within the typicalresources of most 8-bit processors.

CMX demonstrated CMX-MicroNet residing and running on an 8051board with an LCD and dial pad that allowed bi-directionalcommunication with another computer running a standard Web browser.Our engineers wrote a small application that with the stack took upabout 12K of ROM and about 7K of RAM. The application allowed usersto refresh the LCD display on the 8051 board from the laptop's Webbrowser and on the Web browser from the dial pad on the 8051 board.It was fast, efficient, and clearly demonstrated that an 8-bitdevice can be turned into a true HTTP Web server with littlefuss.

CMX-MicroNet currently supports the 8051, the Hitachi H8S, theHitachi 300H, and the Infineon 80C16x series of processors. CMXplans to release versions supporting the Atmel AVR, the MitsubishiM16C, the Philips XA, and other processors soon. CMX-MicroNet isintended for use on 16-bit chips in applications with tight ROM/RAMrequirements. It is inexpensive and offers free source code, noroyalties on deployed products, and free technical support.

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