With their high performance per Watt and backward compatibility with existing hardware platforms, Intel® processors are capturing more of the military/aerospace market. But the increasing need for fast booting solutions and streamlined code for passing military and avionic code review can challenge this progression, along with the difficulty and expense of creating fast boots through legacy BIOS and UEFI firmware.


Making use of the Intel® Firmware Support Package (Intel® FSP), an firmware development component, Sage Electronic Engineering recently demonstrated a half-second boot in advance of the operating system for the Intel® Atom™ processor E3800 product family Customer Reference Board (CRB). The company accomplished this through optimization of coreboot*, an open source extended firmware platform, and SeaBIOS, an open source implementation of a 16-bit X86 BIOS that can run natively on X86 hardware with the use of coreboot. Coreboot integrating the Intel FSP provides a minimalist firmware framework that lends itself well to boot time optimization. The solution, a customized version of the SageBIOS Board Support Package for the Intel® Atom™ processor E3800 product family, will support a variety of operating systems, including Linux* and Microsoft Windows*.


A free demonstration ROM for the open source-based boot of the reference board features the SageBIOS Open Source Package for the Intel Atom processor E3800 product family, replacing standard UEFI boot loading. The binary demonstration image comes in an installer package that includes a menu-driven environment to support system firmware update and restore, and a folder containing all open source software used to construct the binary demonstration image (Figure 1). Sage’s 509-millisecond boot in advance of the operating system is disabled on the demo open source package. Those interested in testing the fast boot BSP are invited to contact Sage.


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Figure 1. Sample screen shot of a Sage full-featured Integrated Development Environment designed for use with SageBIOS. Each Sage EDK contains the complete toolchain for cross-compiling and downloading your custom firmware, creating a highly productive development environment.

Military and aerospace applications such as those controlling flight or battle solutions require fast system boots to assure rapid availability of systems. As I detailed in an earlier post, the Intel Atom processor E3800 product family, Intel's first system-on-chip (SoC) designed for intelligent systems, makes an excellent choice for rugged duty, low-power, small form factor applications. Intel Atom processor E3800 product family SoCs deliver up to 3x higher performance and up to 5x lower power than the previous generation, so they provide ample performance per watt. Their extended temperature support, BGA mounting, and error correcting code (ECC) support – which protects against internal data corruption – enable them to meet specs for applications such as vehicle fire and weapon control, as well as manpack applications. The processor family’s improved power management capabilities deliver standby power measured in milliwatts, supporting days of standby time.

Sage also pulled off this sub-second feat with an XPedite7450 Rugged COM Express board from Extreme Engineering Solutions equipped with a quad-core SKU of a 3rd generation Intel® Core™ i7 processor and 4GB of DDR3 Error Correcting Code (ECC) SDRAM (Figure 2). They produced a bare-metal 0.98-second boot on the XPedite7450 board to the first instruction of an RTOS (VxWorks). The XPedite7450 can accommodate up to 16GB of DDR3 ECC SDRAM and is ideal for high-bandwidth, processing-intensive military applications.



Figure 2. The XPedite7450 is an enhanced, Type 6 COM Express* module based on the 3rd generation Intel® Core™ i7 processor and Intel® QM67 chipset.

Working directly with Extreme Engineering, Sage optimized the system configuration to achieve the required boot time by:


  • Code reduction from the original coreboot-based SageBIOS board support package (BSP) supporting 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processors
  • Coding a new ECC initialization algorithm that reduces elapsed time by more than half
  • Fine tuning the entire system, including the code for the VxWorks* distribution


Sage believes further optimization, including that of the ECC memory, could yield further reduction in boot time. The SageBIOS solution also includes alternative boots, including a Linux boot, which is fully integrated within SPI boot Flash.. The ECC solution is expected to work equally well for SageBIOS fast boot solutions with 4th and 5th generation Intel® Core™ processors. Sage will also soon announce a fast boot solution for the Intel® Xeon® processor D product family CRB. Built on Intel's industry-leading 14nm process technology, the Intel Xeon processor D product family is the first Intel® Xeon® processor-based SoC. It combines the performance and advanced intelligence of Intel Xeon processors with the size and power savings of a SoC. The family supports ECC memory.


SageBIOS Custom Board Support Packages significantly expedite time-to-market for open source system firmware customization by providing a prebuilt and configured SageBIOS™ with an integrated build capability. The package include all build scripts and one license of the Sage Embedded Development Kit (EDK), which is the only commercially available integrated development environment for Intel processor firmware development.



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Sage Electronic Engineering is an Affiliate member of the Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance. Extreme Engineering Solutions is a General member of the Alliance.


Mark Scantlebury

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance

Associate Editor, Embedded Innovator magazine