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AMD targets embedded market with RTOS deal

AMD targets embedded market with RTOS deal

AMD's G-Series APUs now feature support for Green Hill Software's Integrity RTOS - a key requirement for adoption in embedded system designs.

AMD has made clear its intentions to take on the likes of ARM, MIPS and Intel (naturally) in the lucrative market for embedded system processors, adding official support for one of the most popular real-time operating systems to its G-Series accelerated processing units.

Designed for use in embedded systems, including set-top boxes, gaming systems, information kiosks, point-of-sale systems and thin client terminals, AMD's G-Series is a low-power x86 offering which brings the flexibility of a desktop instruction set architecture to a market largely dominated by reduced instruction set chips (RISC) from the likes of ARM and MIPS.

It's a market in which AMD's long-time rival Intel is showing growing interest, positioning its x86-based Atom CE and related processors as flexible alternatives to the traditional RISC offerings from its competitors. Clearly, AMD isn't going to let Intel muscle in on a new market without a little dust-up.

Key to the success of any embedded processor is its support for a real-time operating system, or RTOS. Unlike a traditional operating system, an RTOS uses clever algorithms to ensure that tasks given to the processor complete in a highly predictable timescale with minimum variation, or 'jitter.' A task that takes ten microseconds to complete in an RTOS should always take ten microseconds, regardless of what the processor is doing at the time the request is made.

It's not a feature a desktop user requires, but it's absolutely vital for consideration in key embedded markets including industrial control systems, navigation systems, medical and military equipment. In these markets, raw performance isn't required - but reliability and predictability are an absolute necessity.

To help get its G-Series accelerated processing units (APUs) accepted in the embedded world, AMD has teamed up with Green Hills Software to get the latter company's Integrity RTOS up and running on the chip. The result: the ability to offer system designers a powerful processor coupled with an RTOS featuring a hard real-time deterministic scheduler.

'Reliability, security, and certifications are critical requirements in the embedded market. Green Hills has a long and successful track record in these areas and can not only deliver these critical requirements, but can also provide a large ecosystem of technology collaborations that can help bring a complete software platform solution to our customers, enabling reduced time-to-market,' claimed Buddy Broeker, AMD's embedded solutions director, at the announcement. 'The AMD Embedded G-Series APUs and Integrity are a winning combination for our customers in highly regulated markets such as industrial, military/aerospace and medical devices.'

If successful in its bid to win custom in lucrative embedded markets, AMD could be at the forefront of a revolution in the capabilities of embedded systems. Where a typical MIPS- or ARM-based dual-core embedded processor is a 32-bit design with around 64KB of cache and typically lacklustre graphics, AMD's G-Series T56N flagship 64-bit embedded chip runs at 1.6GHz, boasts 1MB of L2 cache and Radeon HD6310-equivalent graphics capabilities with full support for DirectX 11.

With that kind of power, embedded systems could be made significantly more powerful and, potentially, easier to use. Thus far, however, AMD has yet to announce any major design wins for its chips.

13 Comments

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C-Sniper 28th March 2012, 16:34 Quote
I think the front page article blurb should read ARM and MIPS feel the squeeze. Not AMD and MIPS...
Gareth Halfacree 28th March 2012, 17:06 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by C-Sniper
I think the front page article blurb should read ARM and MIPS feel the squeeze. Not AMD and MIPS...

Don't know what you're talking about. (Fixed, ta.)
schmidtbag 28th March 2012, 17:22 Quote
so i don't get it, this is going to be 1/3 of an x86 cpu, 1/3 of an ARM cpu, and 1/3 of a gpu? or, is this basically going to be an ARM cpu on steroids?
towelie 28th March 2012, 17:23 Quote
i would not be surpirsed if AMD do really well in this market considering there Apu technology.
Gareth Halfacree 28th March 2012, 17:38 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by schmidtbag
so i don't get it, this is going to be 1/3 of an x86 cpu, 1/3 of an ARM cpu, and 1/3 of a gpu? or, is this basically going to be an ARM cpu on steroids?
It's not an ARM CPU at all; it's an x86 chip.
ch424 28th March 2012, 20:51 Quote
When they can make self-checkout machines run quickly and not randomly hang, I'll be impressed...
schmidtbag 29th March 2012, 04:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Quote:
Originally Posted by schmidtbag
so i don't get it, this is going to be 1/3 of an x86 cpu, 1/3 of an ARM cpu, and 1/3 of a gpu? or, is this basically going to be an ARM cpu on steroids?
It's not an ARM CPU at all; it's an x86 chip.

Oooh ok, that makes a lot more sense now. However, I'm not exactly sure what the point of this is. Why do these low-end systems need DX11 or need to be 64 bit? But more importantly, how hard could it possibly be to customize any OS to be a RTOS on any CPU architecture? Maybe for Windows this might not be so easily accessible but most of these systems don't run windows, and if they do, the programs they are running are often java based (meaning they should be easy to port to another platform). To me this seems to be entirely a software issue, so unless there is some tremendous positive performance or power consumption difference by intel and AMD making processors work specifically for a RTOS, I don't see why they can't just customize an OS like linux to act as an RTOS on any standard x86 CPU. Unless I'm completely misinterpreting the point of this, it just seems like a market fad to me.
fluxtatic 29th March 2012, 07:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by schmidtbag


Oooh ok, that makes a lot more sense now. However, I'm not exactly sure what the point of this is. Why do these low-end systems need DX11 or need to be 64 bit? But more importantly, how hard could it possibly be to customize any OS to be a RTOS on any CPU architecture? Maybe for Windows this might not be so easily accessible but most of these systems don't run windows, and if they do, the programs they are running are often java based (meaning they should be easy to port to another platform). To me this seems to be entirely a software issue, so unless there is some tremendous positive performance or power consumption difference by intel and AMD making processors work specifically for a RTOS, I don't see why they can't just customize an OS like linux to act as an RTOS on any standard x86 CPU. Unless I'm completely misinterpreting the point of this, it just seems like a market fad to me.

Um, running programs written in a language that requires a VM seems like a bad idea for an RTOS. I would think the way you would want to go would be to get as low-level as possible - C or even Assembly. And market fad? Not familiar with industrial control systems, are you? These are the reason Via still has so many boards with RS232 ports - sometimes multiple ports on one board. You think I need that much back-panel real-estate being eaten up by what you would think are long-dead legacy ports? I don't, but people running industrial machinery often do. (And that's Via's bread and butter - embedded/industrial machines...x86 boards [and some supporting 64-bit, iirc], at that.)

Relating to what ch424 says, yes, exactly. The largest chain in my area uses self-check stations running WinXP (they bluescreen often enough that I've seen it many times) So right there, yes, DX11 isn't strictly needed, nor 64-bit now, but if I can get it without the cost going up because of it? All the better. Once those systems have been ported to a more modern OS, they're ready to roll.

As to Linux, some (maybe even a lot) probably already do. But Linux is not Jesus, Miracle Worker of Galilee. It gets bit tiring, all the evangelists acting as if the solution to all computing's problems is Linux. I would guess quite a number of systems in these markets are running OS's most of us have never heard of, or wouldn't even recognize as an OS. Obscure (to the mass market) systems that nevertheless represent millions of dollars within the markets they serve.

Seriously, though, anyone here know? Could Linux do it?
Bindibadgi 29th March 2012, 08:51 Quote
I read Green Hill and thought about playing Sonic at the checkouts.

/thread contribution.
Gareth Halfacree 29th March 2012, 10:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by fluxtatic
Seriously, though, anyone here know? Could Linux do it?
Yeah, there are RTOSes based on Linux, although it can be hairy getting the kind of deterministic scheduling a hard RTOS needs in the Linux kernel without some serious hackery. Chipmaker Freescale did a good whitepaper (PDF warning) on the matter, although it was written in 2005 so it's a bit out of date now.
schmidtbag 29th March 2012, 16:43 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by fluxtatic
Um, running programs written in a language that requires a VM seems like a bad idea for an RTOS. I would think the way you would want to go would be to get as low-level as possible - C or even Assembly. And market fad? Not familiar with industrial control systems, are you? These are the reason Via still has so many boards with RS232 ports - sometimes multiple ports on one board. You think I need that much back-panel real-estate being eaten up by what you would think are long-dead legacy ports? I don't, but people running industrial machinery often do. (And that's Via's bread and butter - embedded/industrial machines...x86 boards [and some supporting 64-bit, iirc], at that.)
Hey, I'm just saying what I've seen. I haven't really seen any of these types of low-end computers for industrial purposes, so I don't really know what they require. I'm not saying that RTOSes are a fad, because I think that is an excellent idea. I think that processors designed specifically for an RTOS is a fad, because it seems to me to be more of a software thing than hardware. Even though I've never seen any RTOS computers myself, I can easily imagine dozens of purposes for them.
Quote:
Relating to what ch424 says, yes, exactly. The largest chain in my area uses self-check stations running WinXP (they bluescreen often enough that I've seen it many times) So right there, yes, DX11 isn't strictly needed, nor 64-bit now, but if I can get it without the cost going up because of it? All the better. Once those systems have been ported to a more modern OS, they're ready to roll.
Yes, absolutely. But if it does actually affect price then that's where I begin to question it. 3D in general isn't the kind of thing you want on a system like these, except for maybe self-checkout machines and that's pretty much the 1 and only thing. It wouldn't take much for a 3D task to slow down the rest of the system to a possible instability. As for 64 bit, since these computers aren't very good to begin with, the extra performance you would gain from 64 bit is minuscule. If you're looking for more than 4GB of RAM, use PAE.
I'm not against these features at all, but if adding them affects the price then they might want to remove them.
Quote:
As to Linux, some (maybe even a lot) probably already do. But Linux is not Jesus, Miracle Worker of Galilee. It gets bit tiring, all the evangelists acting as if the solution to all computing's problems is Linux. I would guess quite a number of systems in these markets are running OS's most of us have never heard of, or wouldn't even recognize as an OS. Obscure (to the mass market) systems that nevertheless represent millions of dollars within the markets they serve.

Seriously, though, anyone here know? Could Linux do it?

Well, have you ever used linux yourself? I use it as my main OS on all of my computers, I'm making a robot based on it, and it is used in the most obscure purposes from routers to cars to TVs or even microwave ovens. If you can get a computer kernel to operate in devices like these then it would be relatively effortless to make the kernel change the way it processes tasks in order for it to become a RTOS.

The cool thing about intel or AMD joining in on this is if they do a dual-core CPU, they could have each core do a different thing. The first core could be used for OS tasks while the 2nd core could be used for RTOS. Obviously the only problem would be making sure both processes don't clash. Or, in a more likely and practical scenario, the first core could be used strictly for the kernel and any background processes while the 2nd core is for user processes only, which would possibly help improve stability. I have a feeling that many current RTOS program out there are not multi-threaded.
TheUn4seen 30th March 2012, 02:53 Quote
It's funny to see how ignorant self-appointed "geeks" can be. RTOS systems are used everywhere - from your car's ABS to NASA Mars landers. They run factories, cell phone BTS stations and ballistic nuclear warheads, yet I see words like "fad" used. When hardware is considered, it's all about reliability. Of course, you can run RTOS on any x86 CPU, but no home or server grade CPU would work reliably in space - that's why NASA still uses specially shielded 386/486 CPUs in probes worth milions. Basically, AMD say that they made a faster CPU that can reliably work in harsh enviroments. If they prove as reliable as they say, it will really make people in embedded systems world happy.
schmidtbag 30th March 2012, 03:18 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheUn4seen
It's funny to see how ignorant self-appointed "geeks" can be. RTOS systems are used everywhere - from your car's ABS to NASA Mars landers. They run factories, cell phone BTS stations and ballistic nuclear warheads, yet I see words like "fad" used. When hardware is considered, it's all about reliability. Of course, you can run RTOS on any x86 CPU, but no home or server grade CPU would work reliably in space - that's why NASA still uses specially shielded 386/486 CPUs in probes worth milions. Basically, AMD say that they made a faster CPU that can reliably work in harsh enviroments. If they prove as reliable as they say, it will really make people in embedded systems world happy.

Did you not read my response? I said that the CPU itself seems like a fad, not the RTOS. I state this again - RTOSes are practical and a good idea. I asked for someone to prove me wrong about why you can't just use any CPU in an RTOS. So explain to me, how is requesting to be proven wrong being ignorant or a self-appointed geek? Ok, maybe your run-of-the-mill x86 based CPU won't work (well) in a low-gravity vacuum. Well guess what - most RTOS processors will exist on earth for their entire lifespan. Way to make yourself look like an ass.
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