LOS ANGELES ARC Cores Ltd. is set to announce at this week's Embedded Processor Forum a design interface to its configurable 32-bit RISC processor that will open up the ARC core to third-party developers.
ARC (Elstree, England) is characterizing the development as analogous to the use of plug-in software with Netscape's Internet browser or to the definition of the PC-bus in the IBM PC.
ARC expects to see customers and third-party specialists create application-specific plug-ins comprised of hardware, instructions and software. The development is expected to encourage companies with specific expertise in networking, communications, media processing, and encryption to design around the ARC core, the company said.
ARC has offered its extensible and synthesizable core since the company was founded in 1996. That extensibility is accommodated within the company's Architect graphical interface with the guarantee that the C language compiler can cope with selected options. Alternatively, designers may work outside the Architect GUI, but with the burden that assembly language routines would have to be developed and with an engineering effort required to interface with the ARC core.
Mike Reynolds, director of development tools engineering at ARC, is scheduled to present ARC's paper at the Embedded Processor Forum this week in San Jose, Calif. "We are creating a specification, a set of rules that covers everything that is needed to work with the core," he said. "The plug-in includes semantics that the design database will understand. But it will allow additional circuitry to be added to the core and accommodated within the Metaware C language compiler.
"It should work, if you complete all the parts of the plug-in asked for," said Reynolds.
No trivial interface
Reynolds acknowledged that the work specified by the interface of the ARC processor core was not trivial. "But at leas t we've been there before," he said. "The plug-ins include semantics that design database will understand. We're now making it easier for users to build their own plug-ins." Reynolds also stressed that the design interface is a lot more than a physical on-chip bus definition, including as it does design hardware and software, debug and development tools support.
"We expect there will eventually be libraries of plug-ins aimed at different application-specific sectors and aimed at shortening time-to-market for our customers."
Reynolds said he expected the plug-in interface would be distributed in the form of a license to allow engineering teams that design with ARC cores to use a development tool kit.
"New software plug-ins appear weekly, always keeping pace with market demands," said Jim Turley, vice president of marketing for ARC Cores."Our processor's plug-ins will fill a similar role in the hardware world. The ARC processor has been adopted more rapidly than any other CPU core, and this latest announcement will help accelerate that growth. Plug-ins encourage collaboration, and they accelerate innovation because you don't have to wait years for the next major release of a product."
ARC Cores is partnering with several design houses in offering plug-ins that will be added to ARC's processor development tool, to aide easy and reliable installation. As part of those programs, ARC Cores will provide technical and marketing support for developers wishing to create third-party plug-ins.
Further details on the program are still being finalized, and ARC Cores expects to roll out the program later this year.