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Tensilica adds trace support to Xtensa, Diamond processors

Posted: 11 Dec 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:configurable processor cores? real-time trace support? FPGA?

Tensilica Inc. has added an optional full-speed, non-intrusive instruction trace capability to its Diamond Standard and Xtensa configurable processor cores. Tensilica's TRAX-PC processor trace capture macrocell is Nexus 5001 compatible and ideal for debugging complex, challenging real-time applications such as engine and motor control. Software control and use of the on-chip TRAX hardware is fully integrated into Tensilica's Xplorer IDE so software engineers can easily develop and debug programs while using the TRAX-PC trace macrocell.

Tensilica has been finding new interest in its processors in two areas involving real-time control. First, for standard control processors, the Diamond Standard processor family includes low-power, efficient 32bit controllers. Particularly, the Diamond Standard 106Micro, said to be the smallest licensable 32bit core, is very attractive to designers moving up from 8- and 16bit controllers in these applications.

Second, Tensilica's Xtensa configurable processors can be exactly configured and matched to the application. In many real-time applications, adding instructions to the processor that accelerate data processing can enable meeting the real-time constraints in a much more area and power efficient way vs. traditional approaches of increasing the frequency (MHz) of the processor. This can allow a much smaller, lower-power, optimized Xtensa processor to replace a much bigger general-purpose processor core.

"Difficult debugging problems are sometimes caused by subtle interactions between subsystems and other timing consideration in hard real-time systems. State-of-the-art processor trace tools can ease system integration, solidify product schedules and accelerate revenues," said Chris Rowen, Tensilica president and CEO. "By adding trace capability, designers can feel confident in their ability to debug and deploy FPGA prototypes or SoC silicon solutions."

Tensilica's TRAX-PC processor trace capture block is an optional item for use with all Tensilica Diamond Standard and Xtensa processors. It provides tracing information through an SoC's JTAG debug port without requiring added device pins. It helps designers trace all changes in program flow including exceptions and interrupts. The trace block uses a circular on-chip trace buffer with user-defined sizing to capture the trace stream and accepts PC-based triggers and external trigger inputs.

Associated software tools convert the compressed trace into an annotated program disassembly for easy debugging. These tools are fully integrated into Tensilica's Eclipse-based, Xtensa Xplorer IDE. The IDE provides visualization and debugging environment to both develop and debug programs using the TRAX-PC trace macrocell.

The TRAX-PC processor trade capture macrocell is available now for use with all current Tensilica processors.

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