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Group works on multicore tool standards

Posted: 22 Jun 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:multicore tool standard? processor? software development tool?

The Multicore Association (MCA) has organized a new work group to tackle the problem of incompatible software development tools for multicore processors. The group expects to have a draft standard for a common data format and a Linux-based reference implementation of its work within a year.

The so-called Tools Infrastructure Working Group is chaired by Tasneem Brutch, a senior staff engineer at Samsung Electronics, encountered the problem while working in a multicore research lab there.

"When I started working for Samsung I was asked to look at the [software development] environment they had with different OS and hardware platforms and [determine] what kind of environment is most suitable going forward as we go [deeper] into multicore," said Brutch.

"The more I looked at it, considering the heterogeneous environment, I saw you can't standardize on any one tool suitethe problem is larger than that," she said. "What you can do is allow different categories of tools to communicate seamlessly.

"That was my proposal to the company and then to the association for the new work group," she said.

Freescale Semiconductor, IBM, IMEC, Mentor Graphics, Nokia Siemens Networks, Samsung, Texas Instruments, Tilera and Wind River have been actively taking part in the group so far. Intel and National Instruments are also members of the group.

"I solicited feedback from all the MCA members including tool makers such as Critical Blue and PolyCore," said Brutch.

One of her next steps is to reach out to vendors, particularly tool developers, who are not part of MCA. "A number of companies outside MCA have shown interest including the Sun Microsystems group at Oracle," she said.

So far the group has been working outside the public eye. It has drafted use cases and requirements and established a partnership to produce a reference design based on its work.

The work group will collaborate with the CE Linux Forum to develop a reference implementation for a trace data format standard based on the Linux Trace Toolkit Next Generation (LTTng) now in development.

"The reference implementation and the toolkit will certainly help resolve the pressing industry need for interoperable tracing tools," said Mathieu Desnoyers, president of EfficiOS Inc. and lead developer of the LTTng project, speaking in a press statement.

The Linux tracing tool was originally written for kernel level tracing and is being expanded for user-level tracing.

In its second year, the work group plans to develop data exchange standards such as protocols for multicore development tools.

"Profilers and tracers are the first targets we have," said Brutch. "If I have a tracer from company A and a profiler from company B, the two should be able to exchange data," she said.

Engineers are already wrestling with "copious amounts of trace data that are generated and uploaded to other devices where analysis is being done on the data," said Brutch. "As we go further into multicore systems it becomes harder to understand what's going on in the system as a whole," she added.

Meanwhile, other standards efforts continue inside MCA which has nearly 30 members. A separate work group is expected to formally release within weeks an applications programming interface to manage resources such as shared memory and power management on a multicore processor.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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