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Embedded code gets a dose of parallelism

Posted: 19 Mar 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:parallelism multicore? processor embedded? program embedded code?

Startup CriticalBlue has announced a tool that can add parallelism to programs running on multicore embedded processors. Prism represents one small step toward the kinds of parallel programming tools tomorrow's developers will require.

"The multicore processors are out there, the issue is how you are going to program them," said David Stewart, CEO of CriticalBlue. "This area hasn't been addressed well yet," he added.

Indeed, researchers see the need for a new parallel computing model as the top challenge in computer science today. It is made all the more critical because silicon designers have forced the need for a breakthrough by moving to multicore architectures to gain performance in the face of rising power consumption and leakage in fast single-core designs.

"I'm sure eventually there will be new languages generated, but we have plenty of work in the meantime," said Stewart. "Embedded programmers are quite happy with sequential programs and the C language, so getting them to use multicore is a big challenge, and it will take awhile."

Users can submit to Prism a trace file generated by running their program on a simulator. The tool will show ways to add parallelism to the code to exploit the multicore processor. Users can choose what modification they want to make, then validate the new code on Prism.

The tool is a plug-in to the Eclipse environment and accepts either sequential or multithreaded code. "Most of the solutions out there today are invasive because you have to commit to their languages or extensions to get a benefit," Stewart said.

The tool is available today for use with ARM, Mips and Toshiba's Venezia processors. Support for PowerPC and Renesas SH processors is in development.

"Prism is a mature and highly effective addition to our standard tool suite that dramatically accelerates and simplifies a developer's ability to leverage our Venezia architecture," said Tohru Furuyama, a general manager in Toshiba's semiconductor group, speaking in a press statement. "We now ship Prism with our standard Venezia SDK."

"Prism has proven to be an elegant and useful solution, driving highly optimized results in a short space of time," Stephen Turnbull, a processor product manager for Freescale Semiconductor, said in the statement.

Prism costs $200 per month per license. A trial version can be downloaded from the company's Web site.

The tool is the second product from the company founded in 2002. Its first product, Cascade, is a hardware synthesis product used to generate coprocessor blocks, but it has been slow to take off.

The 20-person company raised $4 million from venture backers in its last round in December 2007, enough to get it through 2009, Stewart said.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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