By Erez Steinberg, Team Leader; Moshe Anschel, Project Leader; Assaf Naor, Erez Kinarti, Yaniv Klein, and Yehuda Yitschak, DSP Applications Engineers; Freescale Semiconductor
Even a basic 3G-324M gateway supporting only H.263 and MPEG4 requires a lot of processing power. Multi-core devices have design advantages.
The proliferation of 3G networks and services is finally making mobile video a reality. Mobile operators see video telephony services as the killer app that will differentiate new 3G service from existing 2G and 2.5G ones. To accommodate the increasing demand for these advanced services, the network infrastructure is required to continuously grow. However, while voice services require a relatively small amount of processing power, video applications are hungry beasts that require an order of magnitude more.
To add insult to injury, infrastructure systems are also limited by their ability to dissipate heat, how much power they consume, and the board form factor. To accommodate the additional processing requirement, processors are required to become more powerful, without sacrificing other aspects of the system.
One way to fulfill these requirements is to utilize multi-core processors. A multi-core microprocessor is one which combines two or more independent processor cores into a single package, typically on the same piece of silicon. This philosophy is contrary to the old one of continuously scaling the core frequency in single-core devices, which now seems won't work in the long run. Because of their many benefits, Multi-core devices have become the latest trend for embedded and desktop processors markets.
Several DSP vendors have started shipping devices with more than one core. Although intuitively multi-core seems like a good idea, one must consider the implications and design consideration of using such devices. In this article we try to explain some of the considerations DSP vendors face when designing multi-core devices, and the considerations system designer should take into account when choosing a device for their application.
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