Xilinx Releases ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore Platform

Xilinx has released architecture for an extensible processing platform that it claims will deliver unrivalled levels of performance, flexibility and integration to developers of embedded systems. The ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor-based platform enables system architects and embedded-software developers to apply a combination of serial and parallel processing to address the challenging system requirements presented by the global demand for embedded systems to perform complex functions.

The Xilinx Extensible Processing Platform offers embedded-systems designers a processor-centric design and development approach for achieving the compute and processing horsepower required to drive tasks involving high-speed access to real-time inputs, high-performance processing and complex digital-signal processing - or any combination thereof - needed to meet their application-specific requirements, including lower cost and power. A software-centric development flow is enabled by a processor-centric approach that presents a full processor system - including caches, memory controllers and commonly used connectivity and I/O peripherals - that boots and can run a variety of operating systems (OS) at power-up, such as Linux, Wind River's Vxworks and Micrium's UC-OSII.

The ARM architecture and its connected community ecosystem further maximise productivity for developers of embedded systems, while unrivalled performance is achieved by Xilinx architecting the subsystem around ARM's dual-core Cortex-A9 MPCore processors, each running at up to 800MHz, combined with the parallel-processing capabilities of Xilinx's high-performance, low-power 28nm programmable logic. The programmable logic is tightly coupled with the processor system through the high-bandwidth AMBA-AXI interconnects to accelerate key system functions by up to 100x, using off-the-shelf and/or custom IP.

This architectural approach addresses common performance bottlenecks between these parallel and serial computing environments, memory and I/O. It also gives the processor system configuration control of the programmable logic, including dynamic reconfiguration. Software developers can leverage their existing system code based on ARM technology and utilise vast off-the-shelf open-source and commercially available software-component libraries. Because the system boots an OS at reset, software development can get under way quickly within familiar development and debug environments, using tools such as ARM's Realview development suite and related third-party tools, Eclipse-based IDEs, GNU, the Xilinx Software Development Kit and others.

Demand for higher levels of embedded-system performance is being driven by end-market applications that require multi-functionality and real-time responsiveness, such as automotive driver assistance, intelligent video surveillance, industrial automation, aerospace and defence, and next-generation wireless. In the automotive sector alone, with more than 50 million cars produced each year and an estimated 600 million motor vehicles on the road, today's USD1.3bn (GBP850m) driver-assistance market is expected to grow to USD5.8bn by 2017 as manufacturers deploy more embedded systems in their vehicles to make them safer.

Research has indicated that 60 per cent of front-end collisions could have been avoided with an extra 0.5-second response time and that driver fatigue accounts for an estimated 30 per cent of all driver fatalities. As developers of driver-assistance systems pack more computer power into their applications, radar and infrared sensors, cameras and other system components must be installed into confined spaces within the automobile. The new Xilinx Extensible Processing Platform offers a single-chip solution for optimising application-specific hardware/software partitioning and accelerating functions in hardware to drive complex algorithms.

In a market expected to reach USD46bn by 2013, developers of new intelligent-video technologies need processing platforms for building applications that can automatically monitor video patterns and body language, combined with audio, to make intelligent decisions and send alerts, thus reducing the chance for errors. The technology is already moving to full high-definition video and frame rates up to 60 frames per second. The dual Cortex-A9 MPCore-based processor system, coupled with the massive parallel-processing capabilities of the programmable logic, enables this capability.

Developers also gain an opportunity for innovative algorithm design, scalability and field upgradability, within a familiar ARM-based design environment. Wireless telecommunication is being driven by the need for lower power, smaller physical form factors and reduced development costs, to support an ever-increasing number of users and data-hungry applications. New technologies such as 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) can address bandwidth requirements, but smaller, more efficient base stations are essential to meet overall market requirements.

The Xilinx Extensible Processing Platform will help developers of next-generation wireless base stations to meet these needs by providing high-bandwidth parallel processing of 4G signals in combination with multiuser data management on Cortex A9 processors - all in a small, power-efficient and cost-effective integrated solution. Because the platform is extensible, developers have the flexibility to implement future equipment updates and performance upgrades of both hardware and software.


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