Experts Forecast Virtualization and Communication Trends

By Cameron Bird

Physics drive the possibilities of microprocessors, says Marcus Hjortsberg, vice president of product management at Enea. And as computer speeds ramp up, vendors continue to integrate and consolidate independent processor cores into single chips. To address the evolution of this space, EE Catalog tapped Hjortsberg; Kim Hartman, vice president of sales and marketing at TenAsys Corporation; and Charlie Ashton, vice president of marketing and US business development at 6WIND.

EECat: What new trends are defining the multicore markets?

Hartman: Multicore PC hardware is now ramping at an unprecedented rate. These embedded PCs scale across a wide range of performance, power, cost and form factors allowing for novel ways to address needs using a mixture of the old ‘tried and true’ with the new and exciting. Of particular interest is the maturing of the embedded virtualization initiative. Unlike server virtualization, embedded virtualization is used to partition the hardware resources of CPU cores, memory and I/O dedicated to specific tasks. This maintains the single threaded nature of many embedded applications, while allowing for multiple functions to be hosted on a single multi-core system.

Hjortsberg: We find that traditional general purpose programmable embedded CPU designs - based on MIPS, PowerPC, Intel, and other architectures - are now becoming the solution of choice primarily because these have standard embedded software ecosystem support like real-time OS, compilers, and software tools to address the new demands on flexibility and thus programmability. As for performance, with recent technology advancements that are now promising dozens to hundreds of general purpose CPU cores in a multicore device within a few years, all with “hardware acceleration” engines for packet processing, then the bandwidth issue is apparently addressed. This is lending itself to clear emerging trend in the communications market of consolidating both dataplane and control plane processing on a single device. But while all this sounds great - software developers can use standard and well understood OS and programming API solutions, HW developers can deploy more and more bandwidth cost effectively - this simply leads to new challenges.

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