AMD targets embedded market with RTOS deal
March 28, 2012 // 11:35 a.m.
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.