The state of multicore software

The promise of multicore processors is extremely compelling, providing a viable path toward higher performance and lower power for a broad range of markets and applications. In recent years, we've seen tremendous innovation at the chip design level, resulting in a new generation of embedded multicore processors that truly set new standards of excellence. But as early adopters of embedded multicore chips well understand, advanced multicore processors are only as valuable as the developer's ability to create software that leverages the benefits of these multicore CPUs.

What is the current state of embedded multicore software? Clearly, there are a number of highly innovative companies offering advanced tools, operating systems, virtualized development environments, and application level software that can benefit developers, systems integrators, and the OEMs they work for. But no one has come up with the “magic button” that can automatically rewrite and parallelize your valuable legacy code to run on multicore chips. And alternate programming models are, at best, many years away.

The best way to close the embedded multicore software/hardware gap is to build comprehensive solutions that combine multicore processors with software—from low-level code all the way to vertical/market-specific application software—that's production-ready, pre-parallelized, and optimized for the target silicon. Such solutions can dramatically shorten design and development cycles because they reduce the time required to test and optimize application software for multicore processors.

Who will write this software? No one can do it alone, and comprehensive ecosystems are as important to success as ever. But when it comes to application level software, silicon vendors are best able to craft applications specifically designed to optimize each and every feature of the target silicon. Of course, this requires silicon providers to offer a larger portion of the solution than in the past. But faster adoption of embedded multicore is key to maintaining the consistent progress that the semiconductor business has delivered for decades. In the embedded multicore era, suppliers who just create great chips and expect their customers to figure out the rest will fall behind. Those with the vision, market segment focus, and resources to help their customers harness multicore technology will win.

About the author
Sathyan Iyengar is the vice-president of software products for Freescale's networking and multimedia group. He has over 15 years of management, operations, business development, and engineering experience in the networking, embedded systems and computer industry. Iyengar holds an MS degree in computer science from the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, India, and a BE degree in mechanical engineering from the SJ College of Engineering, Mysore, India. He can be reached at .

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