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2011

This post http://www.multicorepacketprocessing.com/portable-packet-processing-the-lte-use-case/ is a discussion of how portable solutions for packet processing provide key business benefits to LTE equipment OEMs.

This post on the Multicore Packet Processing Forum http://www.multicorepacketprocessing.com/cloud-computing-infrastructure-raw-networking-performance-is-not-enough/ outlines the wide range of factors that need to be considered in order to optimize cloud networking equipment.

Conventional wisdom has been that general-purpose microprocessors serve mainly in the control plane in communications and networking gear while FPGAs, application-specific standard products, and ASICs handle packet processing in the data plane. But that has changed over the course of the last few years. Every new generation of microprocessors is more capable of handling real-time packet manipulation. The latest Intel® Architecture (IA) processors based on the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture, for example, can handle more complex applications such as implementing security algorithms, and support more network ports than prior-generation processors. Networking equipment vendors can capitalize on the performance offering smaller lower-cost security appliances with scalable port density.

 

There are several features in Sandy-Bridge-based processors that can be especially useful in security-centric communication systems. The processors leverage a new on-chip ring interconnect that links processor cores, caches, and a memory controller. That architecture is an advantage for Intel in that it allows the processor designers to scale designs adding cores. But it provides superior throughput than prior on-chip interconnects and that is a key to performance in communications applications.

 

The microarchitecture also includes support for ECC (Error Correction Code) memory. Single bit errors are relatively harmless in personal computing but can be devastating in mission-critical embedded systems in communications, military, medical, and other applications. ECC allows the system to detect and correct soft errors.

 

Note that not every Sandy Bridge processor includes the ECC support, but ones that do are not hard to find. For example, the Intel® Xeon® Processor E2-1225 and E3-1275 support ECC.

 

A relatively new feature called Intel® Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) New Instructions (AES-NI) can also offer a performance boost in security-centric applications. AES-NI was actually introduced in the second-generation of processors based on the Nehalem microarchitecture and is more widely available in the Sandy Bridge lineup.

 

AES-NI accelerates data encryption functions though the use of new instructions. Intel has said that AES-NI can provide a 3x to 10x performance advantage over pure software-based AES implementations. Third party benchmarks don’t document quite that great of an advantage in terms of how fast the processor executes the encryption algorithm. But AES-NI relieves the processor of that duty freeing it up for other tasks.

 

Again, AES-NI support is not in every Sandy Bridge processor. The Xeon processors mentioned above support the technology. And a number of second-generation Intel® Core™ i5 and i7 processors do support AES-NI including the i7-2600 and the i5-2400.

 

There are two more features in Sandy Bridge that can boost networking performance. The Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX) single-instruction multiple-data (SIMD) extension that I focused on in a recent blog are primarily targeted at multimedia but there are some communications-centric functions that can use the SIMD capability. And the second-generation Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 offers an optimized capability of raising the performance of one core to handle peak demands generated by one task.

 

A number of companies are already offering network appliance platforms based on Sandy Bridge processors and security is the focus of some of the products. Lanner Electronics*, for example, has the new FW-8770 network appliance that is available with a choice of the quad-core i5 and i7 processors mentioned above. It’s also available with the Intel® Core™ i3-2120 dual-core processor but that IC does not include AES-NI support.

 

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Lanner ships the product standard in a 1U form factor with 8 Gbit-Ethernet ports that are implemented in the Intel chipset. Design teams can optionally add 8 additional ports via a Lanner Ethernet module while staying within the 1U form factor. Terence Chou- Lanner’s Network Appliance Vice President, said, “When coupled with the 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ processors, the chipset allows the FW-8770 to be our first mainstream appliance with 16 GbE LAN ports. The Intel processors also have new Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 and power sharing enhancements which helps our appliance to have increased performance by dynamically scaling frequency while reducing power consumption.”

 

Nexcom** offers a similar feature set in its NSA 5130 Network Security Appliances. The platform offers a choice of second-generation Core processors. Nexcom also offers the product in 8- and 16-port versions. There is also space for a 3.5-in hard drive or dual 2.5-in drives. And the platform includes an 8-lane PCIe slot.

 

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What type of security centric applications are you working with? Have you utilized the AES-NI capability? If so, what level of performance boost is the technology delivering? Please share you experiences with fellow followers of the Intel® Embedded Community via comments.

 

To view other community content focused on security, see “Security – Top Picks

 

Maury Wright

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor)

Intel® Embedded Alliance

 

*Lanner Electronics is an Associate member of the Intel® Embedded Alliance

**Nexcom is an Associate member of the Alliance

Lots of discussion at last week's TIA 2011 conference about trends in next-generation networks and the convergence between cloud and telecom infrastructure. See the full post at http://www.multicorepacketprocessing.com/network-convergence-insights-at-tia-2011/.

There's an interesting post on the Multicore Packet Processing Forum that discusses the use of a fast path-based software environment to accelerate TCP processing in cloud infrastructure and telecom equipment. See http://www.multicorepacketprocessing.com/accelerating-tcp/.

As the number of networked hospital devices increases, so do the challenges of integrating, managing, and securing them. A new Connected Hospital proof of concept (POC) demonstrates a unified approach for managing and securing these devices using Intel® vPro™ technology. To learn how this technology can help cut costs and increase security, see Emerson’s article in the latest Embedded Innovator magazine.

 

You can access more articles like this by subscribing to the Embedded Innovator. Subscribers receive a quarterly newsletter as well as the annual Embedded Innovator magazine.  Both the newsletter and the magazine feature the latest in industry trends, design ideas, and embedded solutions. Subscribe today to stay on top of our fast-moving industry!

 

Emerson is a Premier member of the Intel® Embedded Alliance.

 

Contact Emerson or Intel for more information on this subject -->

 

Kenton Williston

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Embedded Alliance

Editor-In-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine

In the past, real-time IP media processing typically ran on specialized digital signal processing (DSP) hardware. With the growing multi-core performance of Intel® Xeon® processors, these applications can now be deployed on commodity servers. To learn how low-cost hardware can support thousands of ports with carrier-class performance, check out the RadiSys case study below from the latest Embedded Innovator magazine.

 

You can access more articles like this by subscribing to the Embedded Innovator. Subscribers receive a quarterly newsletter as well as the annual Embedded Innovator magazine.  Both the newsletter and the magazine feature the latest in industry trends, design ideas, and embedded solutions. Subscribe today to stay on top of our fast-moving industry!

 

RadiSys is a Premier member of the Intel® Embedded Alliance.

 

Contact RadiSys to discuss this topic in detail -->

 

 

Kenton Williston

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Embedded Alliance

Editor-In-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine

 

Follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/kentonwilliston

I just got back from the Embedded Systems Conference Silicon Valley (ESC SV), and I saw an impressive array of new products and services from members of the Intel® Embedded Alliance. Here are my favorites:

 

On the hardware side, my top pick from the show is Emerson’s new RapiDex Service quick-turn custom board service (Figure 1). Prototype boards are delivered within eight weeks—a remarkably short timeframe—and the volume commitment is only 100 pieces. The service is available for select platforms, starting with the Intel® Atom™ E6xx processor series. If you have a project that can use the platform, I highly recommend investigating the service.

 

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Figure 1. The RapidEx Service produces prototypes in just eight weeks.

 

I was also intrigued by Eurotech’s new Eurotech Everyware Device Cloud (EDC), an end-to-end cloud-based platform that connects distributed devices to business applications (Figure 2). I was thoroughly impressed by how much the EDC simplifies the creation of machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions that connect embedded devices to a network. The EDC incorporates:

 

  • Eurotech’s Intel® Atom™ processor-based rugged industrial hardware.
  • The Everyware Software Framework (ESF), a middleware platform that provides standard connectivity and communications capabilities. This platform incorporates Wind River Linux, Java, OSGi, and a variety of market-specific middleware bundles.
  • The Everyware Device Cloud Client, which connects field devices to the cloud.
  • The Isidorey Device Cloud, which uses commercial cloud services to provide standards-base connectivity between field devices and business processes, dashboards, and reports.

 

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Figure 2. Eurotech’s Everywhere Device Cloud simplifies design of M2M applications.

 

In addition to simplifying the design process, the Eurotech EDC can greatly reduce costs. For example, the architecture allows data to be gathered on cloud servers, reducing the burden on the end customer’s data center. If you are working on an M2M application, you should take a look at Eurotech—it could make your job easier and save your customer money.

 

Finally, I give high marks to Super Micro’s compact, high-reliability industrial PCs.  SuperMicro’s new SuperCompact Power Modules are remarkably small, enabling redundancy where space and thermal limitations are a challenge. For example, the new SYS-5017C-MTRF server combines a X9SCL-F ATX motherboard with two of the new supplies for a redundant hot-swappable solution in a 1U Rack mount enclosure (Figure 3). It’s worth noting that Super Micro is also ahead of the pack on processor technology. Its SYS-5017C-MTRF is one of the first products to use the new Intel® Xeon® Processor E3-1200 family.

 

 

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Figure 3. SuperMicro’s latest solution provides redundancy in a compact 1U form factor.

 

There was plenty to like on the software side, too. My top pick there is the new INtime Distributed RTOS from TenAsys.  With this RTOS, programmers can treat a distributed multi-platform system as if it was a single local platform. As shown in Figure 4, the RTOS can run multiple kernels simultaneously. These kernels can run within a single system—for example, a kernel can run on each core in a multi-core system—or across separate platforms. A unique Inter Process Communication (IPC) technology called GOBsnet ensures deterministic communication between kernels regardless of their physical location, and programming is done with standard Microsoft Visual Studio software. It’s quite an impressive solution.

 

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Figure 4. The GOBSnet IPC enables distributed multi-core processing across networked devices.

 

I was also impressed by Wind River Linux Secure, a new EAL 4+ and FIPS 140-2 certified platform (Figure 5). As far as I know, this is the first embedded Linux distribution to be so certified. This is a great new option for developers building security- and safety-critical defense systems. The certification also benefits medical, industrial, and telecom applications where security and safety are critical.

 

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Figure 5. Wind River Linux Secure is certified for use in defense, medical, and other mission-critical applications.

 

Continuing the security theme, Green Hills Software announced the launch of its INTEGRITY* Security Services (ISS). Among other things, this business unit is offering a High Assurance Embedded Cryptographic Toolkit (HA-ECT) that leverages the new Intel® AES-NI instructions for accelerated cryptography. This toolkit is FIPS 140-2 level 1 validated and is NSA Suite B-enabled.

 

Green Hills Software also previewed an upcoming upgrade for its INTEGRITY* Multivisor that will add support for OpenGl and sharing of graphics drivers. A beta of this new feature was shown at the show in an in-vehicle infotainment application. The demo showed remarkable responsiveness—switching from a MeeGo navigation application to an INTEGRITY-based rear-camera view took less than a second (Figure 6).

 

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Figure 6. The Green Hills Software demo showed highly responsive virtualization on the Intel® Atom procesor.

 

Finally, LynuxWorks had its first demo of its LynxSecure 5.0 secure separation kernel. This platform has been upgraded to provide higher-performance virtualization, which now includes virtualization of 64-bit and SMP operating systems. Among other benefits, this means developers can now run Windows 7 64-bit in a high-performance, secure environment.

 

LynxSecure 5.0 also gains the capacity to share peripherals among virtual machines through a secure device server, lowering system costs (Figure 7). LynxSecure 5.0 is the first version to be ported to Intel Atom processors, offering the benefits of secure virtualization to low-cost and low-power devices.

 

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Figure 7. LynxSecure 5.0 supports 64-bit and SMP OSs, and gains the capacity to share peripherals.

 

All in all it was a great show. If you attended, I’d love to hear about the products and services you saw. What impressed you?

 

Emerson Network Power is a Premier member of the Intel® Embedded Alliance. Eurotech and Wind River Systems are Associate members of the Alliance. Green Hills Software, LynuxWorks, Super Micro Computing, and TenAsys are Affiliate members of the Alliance.

 

 

Kenton Williston

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Embedded Alliance

Editor-In-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine

Defense departments are demanding embedded systems with lower size, weight, and power (SWaP) as well as improved interoperability. Developers can address these challenges with OpenVPX* systems based on the 2nd generation Intel® Core™ processor family.  To learn how, see my OpenVPX article in the latest Embedded Innovator magazine.

 

You can access more articles like this by subscribing to the Embedded Innovator.  Subscribers receive a quarterly newsletter as well as the annual Embedded Innovator magazine.   Both the newsletter and the magazine feature the latest in industry trends, design ideas, and embedded solutions.  Subscribe today to stay on top of our fast-moving industry!

 

Kenton Williston

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Embedded Alliance

Editor-In-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine

There’s a ground swell of “green” requirements taking a prominent position in modern electronics design. But there are some substantial benefits that can be obtained from improving energy efficiency that’s all wrapped up in the green part of the design. By selecting the right processor and systems software you can eliminate active cooling devices, reduce power supply needs, and reduce real estate requirements.

 

There are many applications that benefit from fan-less operation such as wireless routers, mesh routers, “brick” style embedded systems and a wide variety of applications that can be serviced by Single Board Computers (SBC). ADI Engineering’s (1) Cinnamon Bay SBC and their customizable Atom E6xx-based design is one example of how fans and other active cooling devices can be eliminated from an embedded system. Eliminating cooling fans reduce cost, improve reliability and cut systems size. While some of this reduction in cooling needs comes from careful SBC design, much of the reduction in power consumption in comparison to other processor-based solutions, comes from the intrinsic capabilities of the Intel® Atom™ E620 processor. The E620 thermal dissipation requirements may be met using a thermal management interface materials (TIM) and a heatsink. Together the TIM and heatsink serve to keep the temperature of the semiconductor circuit junctions from either causing the processor to temporarily stop working or fail completely.   Intel provides a Thermal Design Guide that details options for heatsink alternatives.

 

Intel’s Atom processors include a Thermal Monitoring feature that can help control the processor temperature. When the Monitor is enabled and active due to the die temperature reaching a pre-determined activation temperature, the Enhanced Thermal Control Circuit (TCC) attempts to cool the processor by first reducing the core to a specific bus ratio, then if necessary stepping down the internal operating voltage. Both of these actions will have an impact on processor performance – and therefore the embedded software.

 

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ADI Engineering takes a standard Atom-based SBC into the realm of fully customizable designs. By using ADI Engineering’s Intellectual Property licensing mechanism, designers can further reduce both power consumption and board size by eliminating unused capabilities of the Cinnamon Bay SBC. According to the company, the real estate requirements can be reduced up to 50% compared to the COM Express Ultra form factor. The Ultra is 55 x 84 mm making the customized Atom board a very small device.

 

Advantech(2) offers a "SOM-6764” COM Express (95x95 mm) module that can be populated to large scale embedded systems: supports on board 1 GB DDR2 memory, PCI, 1 PCIe x 1, 1 SATA, 1 IDE, 6 USB ports. In this type of configuration power consumption may be dictated more by the duty cycle of usage for peripherals and memories rather than the processor itself. The Advantech SOM-6764 uses standard AT or ATX style power plugs and supplies.  Other Intel Embedded Alliance members offer similar COM Express boards, including Emerson (3) and others detailed in a report hosted on the Intel Embedded Community.

 

Kontron(4) offers custom development of embedded boards based on the Intel Atom family. When developing a custom board, pre-existing board products can be used to prototype embedded systems, but once a system has been proven, extraneous bits and pieces may be eliminated. Doing so lowers per-unit costs, while optimizing board real estate and power consumption.

 

Improving energy efficiency often goes hand in hand with reducing power consumption. But such is not always the case. For example, there are algorithms that are energy efficient, but which don’t necessarily allow an embedded device to operate within a specified instantaneous power budget. So it’s possible for short durations of power consumption to be more energy efficient over the long term. This mostly happens when devices peripheral to the processor are used intensively at the same time that high power draw instructions are executed.  For embedded devices that must keep instantaneous power consumption below a threshold, the power limitations may require the use of a less efficient algorithm – but one that uses more power to complete the computation.

 

WindRiverWorkBench.jpg

 

Software Tools from Green Hills (5) and Wind River (6) can assist with optimizing embedded systems software with an eye towards energy efficiency.  Software-only tools such as Wind Rover’s Run-time analysis tools: System Viewer, Memory Analyzer (formerly MemScope), Performance Profiler (formerly ProfileScope), and  Data Monitor (formerly StethoScope) can be used to gather secondary information about how much energy is being used by a candidate embedded system. The secondary information relies on knowing how much time is being spent in various portions of the application code. When combined with JTAG-based in-circuit-emulation tools and fast-response current metering instrumentation, it’s possible to build a tool suite that permits you to monitor actual energy usage, and therefore be able to determine energy efficiency.

 

Measuring actual energy consumption is an evolving field that today has to be accomplished by collections of tools. The time units of measurement and the intervals depend primarily on any restrictions on instantaneous power consumption. This is especially the case for Power over Ethernet (PoE) powered devices. For some systems you can add additional power sources to your design by adding capacitors or batteries that are engaged when the embedded system reaches a pre-set current consumption.  Recharging the secondary power source occurs when the embedded application is consuming lower levels of power. Of course, the size of these secondary sources may add substantially to the physical size of the embedded electronics.

 

Saving board real estate is often a natural outcome of improving power efficiency. If we eliminate a fan from an embedded system, there is a savings of the fan size, power connections to the fan, and a reduction in the required power supply. A reduction in the energy required to operate an embedded system impacts the power supply design. If we reduce the energy consumption by 50% this usually translates into more than a 50% reduction in power supply size. For embedded systems that include the power supply as part of an SBC, the reduction in board space can become significant: smaller boards may mean a smaller enclosure which in turn means lower costs; smaller boards can have a lower cost to build beyond just the raw board costs based on test costs and lower manufacturing losses; lower power requirements may allow wiring to be reduced in size which may save costs; and improved energy efficiency can extend product life by improving reliability.

 

Improving energy efficient is a net win for manufacturers, users of embedded systems, and the power grid as a whole.

 

How can you improve your product’s energy efficiency?

 

To view other community content on energy efficiency, see “Energy Efficiency – Top Picks”

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____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. ADI Engineering is an Associate member of the Intel Embedded Alliance
  2. Advantech is a Premiere member of the Intel Embedded Alliance
  3. Emerson is a Premiere member of the Intel Embedded Alliance
  4. Kontron is a Premiere member of the Intel Embedded Alliance
  5. Green Hills is an Affliate member of the Intel Embedded Alliance
  6. Wind River is an Associate member of the Intel Embedded Alliance

 

Henry Davis
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor)
Intel® Embedded Alliance

At the 8,000-seat Sioux Falls Arena in South Dakota, food and beverage sales were limited by aging cash registers and menu boards.  To boost sales, the arena installed a more advanced point-of-sales (POS) system based on Microsoft* Windows* Embedded POSReady 2009.    In just the first two months of operation, sales increased by 12 to 14 percent—enough to pay back of the arena’s investment in less than nine months.  The secret to the arena’s success was the advanced connectivity enabled by Intel® architecture.  To learn how IA boosted sales and profits, see the Microsoft case study below from the latest Embedded Innovator magazine.

 

You can access more articles like this by subscribing to the Embedded Innovator.  Subscribers receive a quarterly newsletter as well as the annual Embedded Innovator magazine.   Both the newsletter and the magazine feature the latest in industry trends, design ideas, and embedded solutions.  Subscribe today to stay on top of our fast-moving industry!

 

Microsoft is an Associate member of the Intel® Embedded Alliance.

 

Contact Microsoft or Intel for more information on this topic -->

 

Kenton Williston

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Embedded Alliance

Editor-In-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine

 

Follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/kentonwilliston

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