If you’re an embedded geek like me, this year’s Intel Developer Forum (IDF) was a great place to be. I saw a ton of cool products and demos that got me excited about the future of embedded. The launch of the new Intel® Atom™ processor E6xx series was at the top of my list. I think this new processor—which is the first Intel® architecture chip designed specifically for embedded—will enable for a whole new generation of highly connected, highly interactive embedded devices. See my last blog for details on the new chip as well as supporting hardware and software from the Intel® Embedded Alliance.
I was also intrigued by the sneak peek of “Stellarton”, which will pair the Intel Atom processor E6xx series with an Altera FGPA. Intel says these chips will offer significant I/O flexibility, allowing developers to support interfaces such as Profibus or FieldBus. I think this is a great idea, and I look forward to seeing more details on the processor, which is expected to launch in the first half of 2011.
Intel also provided more details on its 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ processor family, previously codenamed “Sandy Bridge”. These processors include a number of significant architectural changes that improve performance and lower power. For example, these chips incorporate the new Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (Intel® AVX), which doubles the size of the SIMD registers to 256 bits from the 128 bits registers used in Intel® SSE4. In some applications, the Intel AVX instructions can provide a doubling of per-cycle performance. NA Software showed off this doubling of performance at IDF with a synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) demo. (See Figure 1.) According to NA Software, a dual-core 2nd Generation Intel Core processor is fast enough to perform SAR processing in real time.
Figure 1. NA Software showed SAR and SARMTI radar-processing demos.
Another demo showed the 2nd Generation Intel Core processor in an HDcctv application. This demo took input from four 1080p cameras, encoded the video, and performed video analytics on each stream—all while using only 10\% of the processor. The software for this demo came from HuperLab, which has not yet optimized its software for the new Intel AVX instructions. The software should be even more efficient once HuperLab optimizes it.
Figure 2. HuperLab showed four-stream full-HD encoding and analytics using only 10\% of the processor.
I was also thoroughly impressed by the Wind River booth. The company is rolling out easy-to-use Embedded Development Kits through partnerships with a long list of board vendors. As of this week, kits are from Emerson Network Power, Kontron, and Eurotech. Additional kits are coming later this year from Advantech, ADLNK, Curtiss-Wright, GE Intelligent Platforms, and RadiSys. All of these kits come with a bootable USB stick that lets you start development within five minutes. That’s a bold claim, but an accurate one—Wind River walked me through a demo, and it really was quick and easy to get started. (You can watch a demo of one of the kits in the webinar Jumpstarting Software Development.)
I got to see several of these kits, and one of my favorites was the Kontron VX6060 Embedded Development Kit for Altivec Migrations. This kit comes with software from NA Software that converts Altivec code to Intel SSE4 code—a handy feature if you are looking to transition a legacy application to an Intel architecture platform.
Wind River also had a slick demo of its Network Acceleration Platform. This software package enables high-performance IPv4/IPv6 packet forwarding on the Intel® Xeon® processors. The company had a demo running on an Emerson Network Power Centellis* 2000 ATCA platform. This demo processed 30 million packets per second using only three of the platforms’ 12 Intel Xeon cores. Wind River pointed out that the demo was limited only by the number of ports available on the system, which offered two 10G and six 1G ports. With more ports, the demo could have easily scaled to 40G performance.
Figure 3. Wind River showed its Network Acceleration Platform forwarding 30 million packets per second.
Finally, I had a revealing conversation with the folks at InForce Computing. This Indian company makes a number of products with the unique needs of its home country in mind. InForce is particularly interested in bringing the benefits of technology to the poorer rural areas of India. In the past, rural residents would have to travel to a major urban center to access services like banking or medical care. This was more than an inconvenience—the work time lost during travel would seriously cut into family earnings. InForce is looking to turn the system on its head and bring services out to the country. To this end, the company focuses on low cost, portability, and wireless connectivity. The company also includes UPS features in its products to deal with the unreliable power grid. I truly enjoyed talking to InForce, as it gave me a clear picture of how the work we do as embedded engineers can make a big difference in people’s lives.
There were many, many other fascinating products at the show, as well as a great lineup of technical classes. If you couldn’t make the event, I hope you will be able to attend the next one.
Advantech, Emerson Network Power, Kontron, and RadiSys are Premier members of the Intel® Embedded Alliance. ADLINK, Eurotech, GE Intelligent Platforms, and Wind River are Associate members of the Alliance. Altera and Curtiss-Wright are Affiliate members of the Alliance. InForce is a General member of the Alliance.
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor)
Intel® Embedded Alliance
Embedded Innovator magazine