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Heterogeneous multicore dev platform targets Linux

Jul 17, 2014 — by Eric Brown — 1,353 views
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Mentor Graphics has released a heterogeneous multicore development platform for combining Linux, Nucleus, and bare metal OSes on a single multicore SoC.

Just as Wind River had its VxWorks real-time operating system before it developed its embedded Linux distribution, Mentor was known for its Nucleus RTOS years before it acquired embedded Linux experts Embedded Alley to create Mentor Embedded Linux. Like Wind River, Mentor is beginning to connect its RTOS with its Linux OS in various ways. This will become increasingly important as hypervisors enable multiple OSes to run in virtualized containers on a single system-on-chip.

Mentor’s somewhat vague announcement of its heterogeneous multicore SoC development solution for combining Linux, Nucleus, and bare metal OSes on a single SoC mentions a wide range of applications, including industrial, medical, automotive, telecommunications, networking, and consumer electronics products. Yet, our guess is that this will initially focus on automotive, which has perhaps the biggest need for such integration as manufacturers attempt to combine RTOS-driven telematics systems with Linux-based in-vehicle infotainment and cluster-display systems (see farther below).

The Mentor Graphics development solution for heterogeneous multicore systems is said to support different types of processor cores on a single SoC, including both applications processors and microcontrollers. The solution goes beyond the traditional use of Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP) and Asymmetric Multi-Processing (AMP) approaches, and “adds several new features that can execute natively or with a hypervisor,” says the company.

The solution will help developers working on heterogeneous multicore SoC platforms to configure and deploy multiple OSes and applications across processors, and efficiently boot multiple OSes in a coordinated manner, says Mentor. The development platform should also improve communications between isolated sub-systems, and help visualize interactions between multiple OSes.

Key features in the heterogeneous multicore solution include:

  • Remote processor framework (remoteproc) support for Mentor Embedded Linux, Nucleus, and bare-metal applications, thereby easing configuration, development, deployment, and management of OSes across heterogeneous SoC cores
  • Scalable implementations of VirtIO, rpmsg, and the Multicore Communications API (MCAPI), across operating systems to provide efficient inter-processor communication (IPC) for separated device subsystems
  • Graphical debugging and performance analysis tools that enable a system-wide, synchronized perspective across OSes and functions

Automotive industry aims for heterogeneous solutions

The heterogeneous multicore solution is likely to first appear in Mentor’s automotive platform. Last October, the company announced a Mentor Embedded Hypervisor small-footprint hypervisor designed for in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) and automotive telematics systems that use its Linux-, Android-, Nucleus-, and AUTOSAR-based automotive middleware. The hypervisor supports single- or multi-core AMP and SMP architectures, as well as ARM TrustZone security technology, and can partition devices and memory to prevent unauthorized access.

Mentor Embedded Hypervisor architecture
(click image to enlarge)

At the time, Mentor noted that TI’s automotive-focused Jacinto 6 SoC would be the first SoC to use the hypervisor. TI is also the only chipmaker to provide a testimonial for the heterogeneous solution in Mentor’s new announcement. The Jacinto 6, which combines up to dual Cortex-A15 cores, four Cortex-M4 cores, and dual SGX544 3D graphics cores, is expected to be in production by the second half of this year.

TI Jacinto 6 (aka DRA74x) block diagram
(click image to enlarge>

Automotive manufacturers have yet to develop heterogenous multicore systems with multiple OSes, but are eager to do so, according to a recent interview on with Dan Cauchy, head of the Linux Foundation’s Automotive Grade Linux project. Early last year Cauchy helped nurture and sell MontaVista’s ATP (Automotive Technology Platform) IVI platform to Mentor before quitting to join the AGL group.

“Mentor has a unique and comprehensive solution to manage the complexities of multicore heterogeneous development,” stated Adrian Valenzuela, marketing director, Texas Instruments.

“Mentor Graphics’ continued investment in embedded software and delivery of an integrated heterogeneous multicore development solution will enable embedded developers to more easily take full advantage of these complex heterogeneous SoCs,” stated Markus Levy, president of the Multicore Association and chairman of the Multicore and the Internet of Things Developers Conferences.

Further information

Mentor Graphics solutions for heterogeneous multicore development are available now, but no product page was supplied. Mentor will host a free webinar on “Debugging Multicore and Heterogeneous Systems” on August 5, at 9:00 a.m. PDT.

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