By Robert Garrett, AlteraFeb 1 2007 (9:26 AM), Embedded Systems DesignThere are "multi" paths a designer can take to get the needed performance.
As embedded applications have proliferated, increasing performance demands have outstripped the ability of conventional single processors to provide effective solutions. The high clock speeds needed to achieve the necessary performance require increasingly expensive semiconductor process technologies, precision board layout and manufacturing, and sophisticated heat removal to handle the increased power demands of such devices. Embedded designers have turned, instead, to multiprocessors, either combining several conventional processors or augmenting a processor with an application-specific coprocessor or a DSP.
The core-based design approach has fueled this movement to multiprocessor designs. The use of cores has simplified the creation of custom ASICs as well as application-specific standard products (ASSPs) that integrate combinations of processors, coprocessors, and DSPs into one device, and such products have proliferated. At the same time, programmable logic has adopted the core-based approach, offering development teams substantial libraries of soft-core processors and other sophisticated functions for rapid development of integrated multiprocessor designs. The diversity of choice has given developers a range of cost and performance options for system development.
Multiprocessor design for embedded systems, whether implemented in discrete devices or as a multicore approach, uses many architectures. Perhaps surprisingly, the original approach of symmetric multiprocessing (SMP), where a collection of identical processors uses sophisticated software partitioning and scheduling to address various software tasks, hasn't been widely used in embedded systems. SMP proved useful in desktop computing and workstation applications where the system must be prepared to handle a wide range of applications software. Embedded systems, however, have much tighter constraints, such as power, cost, and size, to which SMP is generally unsuitable. Embedded systems are better served by other architectures.
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