STMicroelectronics early adopter of CriticalBlue Technology
Edinburgh, Scotland – May 12, 2003 – CriticalBlue, an Electronic Design Automation (EDA) start-up, has announced the launch of the company and its Cascade Tool Suite. Cascade consists of a set of unique co-processor synthesis tools that accelerate software in embedded microprocessor applications. It analyzes application software on the main microprocessor and, under the control of the user, automatically synthesizes a hardware co-processor specifically designed to accelerate software tasks selected by the user.
Cascade significantly reduces lengthy development times and risks associated with today's complex electronic devices where designers are required to make difficult decisions between implementing functions either entirely in custom-hardware or in software on an embedded microprocessor. Cascade is neither a system-level hardware/software-partitioning advisor nor a traditional configurable microprocessor platform, but rather the EDA industry's first co-processor synthesis tool suite that provides hardware designers with a solution that is a true hybrid between hardware and software.
Microprocessors, prevalent in markets as diverse as communications, automotive and multimedia, form the heart of today's electronic products but lack the processing speed to support the product functionality design engineers wish to implement in software. Cascade provides a new implementation path. The tool suite excels in ‘derivative' product development, where design teams need to reuse existing technology to introduce new products in a timely fashion. The individual tools, which form Cascade, are designed so that it is easy to deploy a co-processor synthesis capability across a multi-disciplined project team of software system and hardware engineers.
"With the increase in silicon development costs and the shortening of market windows, it is vital for us to be able to accelerate the development of platforms, which not only have state of the art performance but also have built-in flexibility. We must be able to accommodate changes in customer or market requirements within the hardware part of our designs," commented Luigi Mantellassi, Imaging Division Processors R&D Director, STMicroelectronics. "We have recently tested the technology of CriticalBlue and the initial results look very promising in terms of the performance/cost ratio and the development time we would have expected using traditional methods."
Maximizing the Power of Design
When developing complex electronic applications, designers of SoC or FPGAs currently must make difficult tradeoffs between implementing functions entirely in custom-designed hardware or in software on an embedded microprocessor. CriticalBlue's approach is to derive an optimized co-processor architecture and associated microcode directly from the application software.
This major breakthrough represents a new way of co-optimizing both the processor and its software. The software is offloaded from the main embedded processor and onto a hardware co-processor. This offloading is specifically architected to allow more of the design to remain in the software, thereby providing flexibility in the final system, especially for derivative designs where significant amounts of embedded software already exist. Key benefits delivered by the tool suite include:
- Operates on the output of the standard embedded software tool chain, preserving existing investments in that tool chain and its associated debug and coding style methodologies.
- Rapid analysis and user feedback of project options, allowing rapid evaluation of a particular implementation solution.
- Automatic generation of cycle accurate C-model of the co-processor, allowing rapid analysis of its performance impact within the overall system context.
- Automatic verification of the co-processor hardware and associated microcode against the functionality of the original software running on the main embedded processor.
- A push button process to generate co-processor RTL, facilitating a rapid implementation path, and supporting inclusion of user-created hardware functions.
- Accommodation of minor software updates on an existing hardware co-processor, enabling silicon reuse in a range of related end products.
"This new approach is not only a disruptive technology, but one that has been designed with a non-disruptive adoption model by providing a true software-centric approach to developing the hardware subsystems of electronic products," commented David Stewart, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, CriticalBlue. "There are no requirements to learn yet another implementation or modeling language. It's like having a compiler switch, where the user can painlessly offload software tasks into flexible hardware to increase performance or to free up execution time on the main processor. This represents an enormous step towards reducing the risks inherent in complex electronics design. "
"Advanced compilation techniques are used to analyze the code and an innovative micro-architecture is used to implement the co-processors," stated Ben Hounsell, CEO, CriticalBlue. "In the course of our pilot project and upcoming beta projects we are recognizing that a rapid and flexible implementation path to achieve product performance while minimizing development risk and time to market are key issues. Customers are evaluating a range of reconfigurable and/or reprogrammable processors and platforms, trying to find a solution. Cascade allows them to find the right path."
CriticalBlue Road Map
CriticalBlue will officially launch its Cascade Tool Suite at this year's Design Automation Conference (DAC), in Anaheim, California, June 2-5, 2003. To see a demonstration at the show, please sign-up on our web site at www.criticalblue.com .The Company is focused on delivering hardware/software designers a systems solution that offers a new implementation capability within their existing design flows, and is based on existing languages. Its tool suite reduces development times, an offers a wider range of implementation alternatives, as well as flexible end products. CriticalBlue will follow Cascade's launch with more highly domain and function specific enhancements, which will further increase implementation efficiency both in terms of performance and development time.
Cascade is currently being evaluated in an early adopter program by STMicroelectronics and will enter beta testing with several other leading companies in 3Q03, with full availability in 4Q03. Pricing for Cascade Tool Suite is on an annual subscription fee, project based model, ranging from $35K to $200K. For more information, please contact David Stewart, VP of Sales and Marketing, at +44 141 337 6366 or visit our website at www.criticalblue.com .
The company currently employs 10 people, containing world-class software, hardware and graphical user interface (GUI) expertise. For more information on the management team and the history of the company, please reference the Company Backgrounder or visit our website at www.criticalblue.com.
CriticalBlue is focused on delivering EDA tools for accelerating software in embedded microprocessor applications to key design houses and semiconductor vendors in the communications, automotive and multimedia industries. The Cascade Tool Suite provides a broader range of implementation options within existing SoC and FPGA design flows, as well as minimizing risk and development time. This is achieved by analyzing application software and automatically generating an appropriate co-processor, designed to accelerate tasks written as general-purpose software.