May 28, 2013

Imperas Gen 2

posted by Bryon Moyer

Imperas has launched their second-generation virtual platform technology. In so doing, they’re adding more capability as well as restructuring their product offering.

We’ve been following their OVPworld approach for a few years, now, Dick Selwood having covered the technology back in 2009. What was then OVPsim has morphed into three “DEV” products – C*DEV, S*DEV, and M*DEV for microControllers, microprocessors (S=Standard), and multicore, respectively. (The * is pronounced “star.”) Each of these has the capability of generating a system model comprising any of the many model components in their library, and it comes with the simulator for executing that model.

They’ve now announced their M*SDK product, which layers new debugging and analytic capabilities on top of the DEV products. These are the typical kinds of probing and profiling tools that a software developer will want to use in optimizing code and/or platform execution. They include:

  • Code coverage
  • Memory and cache analysis
  • Execution profiling
  • Instruction and function tracing
  • Fault injection
  • Protocol verification
  • Exception and interrupt analysis
  • OS task tracing
  • OS scheduler analysis
  • Memory protection verification
  • Shared resource introspection

They’ve also extended their code morphing approach to include references to models of processors that come with their own ISS. In other words, it’s not just a model – it’s a model plus a tool. Such a tool is a slave to the overarching simulator, but can be called to deliver quick, accurate responses to simulation events. Called ToolMorphing, it not only creates the model code on the fly, but binds (for lack of a better word coming to mind right now) an associated tool for that model if there is one.

Meanwhile, the venerable OVPsim has been relegated to use as their academic product. It’s still around, but is no longer featured as a commercial focus.

You can find more information in their release.

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May 23, 2013

Embedded in the Cloud

posted by Bryon Moyer

This is a special one that’s going out to my home boy Jim Turley, who has a special relationship with Cloud Computing. He has a way of poking holes in one of the current darling of technology that is kind of undeniably persuasive. He makes you want to shout, as he shouts, “Testify!” even for me, who has been somewhat more optimistic about the possibilities of the cloud – and I’ve even worked for a company with a cloud-computing model (who has since pulled out of the cloud). (And I always like the emperor-has-no-clothes shouters – when they’re right, or partly right, anyway…)

Most of our cloud discussions have had to do with design tools. You know, using the cloud for peak usage and such. Which, as Jim has pointed out, feels very much like a trip back to the 70s and 80s. We have also talked about content in the cloud. But here’s a new one, as tossed out in a Wind River keynote at this week’s Multicore DevCon in Santa Clara: distributing your embedded code over the cloud. No, not like sending it to people: literally distributed computing – part of your software on your system, part in the cloud running an RTOS.

Yeah, you saw that right: real time.

Here’s the crux of what makes this remotely feasible: latency has dropped dramatically. Actually, there are two kinds of latency. The first I’ll call spin-up latency, and that’s the time it takes to get a system going. Back when I was involved in this, it took a good five minutes or so to get a machine ready to run. That meant that, from a farm standpoint, in order to give users reasonable response, you always had to have an idle machine warmed up ready to allocate. Once it got allocated, then you needed to spin another one up. Waiting five minutes would be totally unacceptable to a user.

This spin-up time is apparently much lower these days; no machines need to idle in the background like trucks at a truck stop while the driver grabs a sloppy joe.

Then there’s simple communication latency during operation. And this has also gotten much better, apparently. This, aided by technologies like KVM (kernel-based virtual machine), is making it feasible, or potentially feasible in the not-too-distant future, to run real-time functions in the cloud. Seriously.

This seems, well, surprising, but, then again, there are lots of things I wouldn’t have believed possible that I now take for granted, so perhaps I’m just an old codger. The other thing, of course, is that you have to convince your customer that your system won’t have any issues with ¾ of its code running in the cloud. Would love to see the safety-critical folks approve that one!

I will be watching with riveted attention to see how this plays out.

Hey Jim, waddaya think? Have we finally found a use for the cloud that you like?

(Heck, not just Jim – what do the rest of you think?)

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May 22, 2013

Freescale’s Sensor Hub Integration

posted by Bryon Moyer

We’ve seen the move from APs managing sensors to MCUs acting as sensor hubs to integration of sensors with MCUs, as with ST. Well, Freescale has now jumped in as well, integrating an accelerometer with a 32-bit Coldfire V1 MCU into what they’re calling their Xtrinsic Intelligent Motion platform.

Given the number of IMUs out there integrating accelerometers, gyros, and magnetometers, I asked why they were just going with an accelerometer only. They said that, frankly, in earlier days, customers didn’t seem interested in sensor hubs. They’re coming around, and clearly they’ve made their way into phones. But now industrial and other customers are starting to take note. But they’re not so much interested in the gyros and magnetometers.

That’s not to say you can’t use them; you can add other sensors into the hub via their I2C/SPI connectivity.

One of the other challenges they see for users is the fact that most sensor hub environments are closed, limiting your choice of sensors and software. They’re trying to keep things as open as possible, allowing you to integrate whatever other sensors and software they want from any vendors they choose. Freescale will provide free software, but you’re not locked in.

You can find more information in their release.

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