Multicore MCUs add GbE, audio - Embedded.com

Multicore MCUs add GbE, audio

Multicore processor company XMOS has released two new MCU families for high-performance, low-cost applications. One family provides gigabit-speed Ethernet connectivity to industrial, automotive, and related Internet of Things applications, offering twice the processing speed and four times the memory of earlier generations. The other family provides high-performance audio for high-end consumer applications.

The xCore-200 product family combines as many as 32 independent processor cores in a cross-connected dual-issue pipeline structure the company calls communicating sequential processors (CSP). As Nigel Toon, XMOS' president and CEO explained in an interview with EE Times, this CSP structure helps boost code execution as high as 4000 MIPS by allowing software to be composed of atomic “codelets” that operate in parallel. A CPU executing a codelet takes data in from one CPU, performs its function, and passes the result along to another CPU in a manner similar to the pipeline structure of DSPs.

The xCore-200 cross switch, however, allows several pipelines to operate in parallel, reducing the need to clear a pipeline to handle a context switch. Similarly, an interrupt response routine can be executed without needing to store and later recall the system state by simply invoking a different set of CPUs than the main routine is using, shortening IRQ response time to mere nanoseconds.

The first device in the xCore-200 family, the XE216-512-TQ128, contains 16 32-bit cores, 512 kBytes of SRAM, up to 2 Mbytes of Flash, and a 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet port with flexible MAC layer, webserver support, and RGMII PHY interface. A USB interface is also provided and other peripherals such as timers are implementable in software using the CSP structure. The company's plans call for additional members of the family to be available with 8-, 1-, and 12-core versions in a few months, and 24- and 32-core versions in the latter part of the year, according to Toon. Each device is available in several memory options, all in pin-compatible packages. The 128-pin TQFP packaging uses a relatively wide pitch for MCUs of this performance level, to help keep PCB costs down, Toon added. The device itself costs less than $5.


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