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'Big-little' scheme for ARM graphics?

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:graphics processor? graphics core? flexible power-performance?

After releasing its Cortex-A7 core with the "big-little" flexible power-performance scheme based upon it, ARM Holdings plc is now thinking of applying the same scheme to its graphics processor cores. "We are looking at a little-big approach for Mali," said Peter Hutton, general manager of the media processing division at ARM.

At present the big-little scheme applies to the pairing of the A7-A15 cores and allows software to migrate between them based on the processing performance required. Meanwhile, ARM's Mali T604 graphics processor supports the OpenCL parallel programming environment and the notion of applying the GPU to parallelizable generalCpurpose processing tasks. At present there is a deal of hand-coding and manual partitioning that has to be done to break out code that is suitable for running on a GPU.

ARM reveals "big-little" processor strategy
ARM claims that the Cortex-A7 is its most energy-efficient application class processor the company has developed. Learn more about the Cortex-A7 here.

Hutton was, until August involved in the design of the Cortex-A7 energy efficient processor and the big-little flexible processing technology.

The T604 includes four shader cores, each of which contains two arithmetic pipelines, one texturing pipeline, and one load/store unit. The four shaders share a coherent L2 cache, an MMU, a tiler, and a Job Manager. This latter block is a key component because the shaders are multithreaded. The Job Manager can dynamically move threads among the shaders. It can be seen that there is already power-performance scalability at the thread level inside the Mali T604.

In that regard one could consider the A7, A15 and Mali TXXX, which are likely to be implemented monolithically, as a set of resources that software should find a way to harness optimally based on a set of defined parameters, most notably minimum latency and minimum power consumption.

- Peter Clarke
??EE Times

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