The new 3rd-Generation Intel® Core™ (codenamed Ivy Bridge) platform delivers substantial performance, I/O, and power efficiency improvements for designers of industrial embedded systems. New architectural enhancements yield as much as a 20% increase in computing power plus up to 40% improved performance per watt when compared to the previous generation. Supporting high performance industrial embedded applications, the new architecture also includes extended instructions plus a major upgrade to the integrated graphics section featuring 30% more execution units and three independent digital display interfaces. To deal with the faster I/O data rate requirements of the latest industrial designs, the 3rd-Generation Intel® Core™ platform now supports PCI Express 3.0 and USB 3.0. This post will cover the new features in detail along with compatible products from Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance members.
One of the most innovative changes to the processor architecture is the 3-D tri-gate transistor technology implemented with conducting channels on three sides of a vertical fin structure (See figure 1). This three dimensional arrangement allows current flow to be controlled on three sides of the channel instead of just the top resulting in higher currents when “on” and minimum leakage when “off”. This 3-D tri-gate design along with the 22 nm process technology allows Intel® to increase transistor density from the Sandy Bridge generation’s 995 million transistors with a die size of 216 mm² to 1.4 billion transistors on a 160 mm² die. The tri-gate architecture also allows transistors to be operated at a lower threshold voltage to reduce overall power requirements while improving switching speeds to boost performance. Several of the 3rd-Generation Intel® Core™ processors are also available with a configurable thermal design power (TDP) so that portable devices can conserve power when operating on batteries yet run at a higher frequencies as needed when docked.
In addition to the structural improvements, the 3rd-Generation Intel® Core™ processors also includes an improved integrated graphics unit that delivers up to twice the 3-D graphics performance compared to the previous generation processor. The Intel® HD Graphics 4000 core includes a number of performance features that target industrial applications that require high-speed, high-definition image analysis and multiple video displays. Built-in features such as Intel® Quick Sync Video Technology employs dedicated hardware for video encode, decode, and transcode operations while Intel® Clear Video HD Technology enables jitter-free, 1080p playback with enhanced color fidelity. The Intel® HD Graphics 4000 provides up to 16 execution units with Microsoft’s DirectX 11 and OpenGL 3.1 (Shader Model 5) support. With interfaces for three independent displays, the integrated graphics unit also enables multi-screen applications without the need for a separate graphics controller.
Industrial designers can also take advantage of new security features built into the 3rd-Generation Intel® Core™ processors such as Intel® Secure Key which protects equipment and data with an improved digital random number generator to strengthen encryption algorithms. The new architecture also supports Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT) to improve the security of virtualization operations with hardware-assist to allocate memory and I/O devices to specific partitions to decrease the processor load and reduce virtual machine switching times. For example, LynuxWorks recently updated their LynxSecure embedded hypervisor that allows multiple guest operating systems and their applications to execute at the same time, in virtual partitions, without compromising security, reliability or data integrity. According to Arun Subbarao, VP of Engineering for LynuxWorks, “The multi-core and virtualization support that LynxSecure offers for these next generation of Intel® processors helps maximize the performance and security of applications running on a wide selection of virtualized guest OSes and allows them to take full advantage of all Intel’s performance improvements including the new integrated Intel® HD Graphics 4000 engine.”
Industrial automation designers can easily incorporate many of these technology improvements by employing off the shelf products from alliance member with products that have already integrated the 3rd-Generation Intel® Core™ architecture. For example, Kontron recently announced the Kontron KTQM77/mITX, a Mini-ITX motherboard for embedded applications, featuring the Intel® QM77 Express Chipset and 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processors (See figure 2). The small form factor module includes the latest serial I/O performance such as PCI Express 3.0 and USB 3.0 and support for up to three independent displays. In addition, Kontron provides operating system support for Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows Embedded Standard 7, VxWorks, as well as multiple versions of Linux.
These products are just a couple of examples where industrial designers can take advantage of the performance improvements and energy efficiency of Ivy Bridge. If you are ready to start a factory automation project please share your 3rd-Generation Intel® Core™ questions and comments with fellow followers of the Intel® Embedded Community. You can keep up with the latest technical articles and product announcements at the Embedded Computing Design archives on Ivy Bridge.
To learn more about the design of industrial automation systems, see “Top Picks – Industrial”
To view other community content on energy efficiency, see "Energy Efficiency - Top Picks”
OpenSystems Media®, by special arrangement with the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance
Kontron is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. Microsoft is an Associate member and LynuxWorks is an Affiliate member of the Alliance.