I recently blogged about the limited availability of JTAG debug tools for Intel® Architecture (IA) processors and how Intel was working with software and tools companies to expand the developer's options. For many years since the advent of JTAG there had been only a single choice of IA debugger (Arium) and I wrote that previous blog on the heels of the June announcement of a second alternative (Wind River). Arium is an Affiliate member and Wind River Systems is an Associate member of the Intel® Embedded Alliance.
While it took over a decade to go from one to two choices, in just the past few weeks two additional companies enabled by Intel have debuted JTAG offerings for IA, bringing the total to four. The two new companies entering the fray are Green Hills Software and Macraigor Systems, both Affiliate members of the Alliance. In today's blog I will highlight Green Hills and I plan to review Macraigor in a subsequent post. Note that I've chosen this sequence based on the timing of their announcements and no bias should be otherwise inferred.
Green Hills' support for IA debug comes in the form of an upgrade to the Green Hills ProbeTM. According to their published specs., the Probe debugger supports over 1,000 devices from over 30 manufacturers. I checked out the list on the website and indeed it spans several pages. Embedded IA processors supported are AtomTM, CoreTM 2, Xeon® 5500 (Nehalem), and EP80579. Multi-core debug support is provided for CoreTM 2 and Xeon®.
Key features of the Probe include:
- Near theoretical maximum sustained JTAG TCK rates
- Best-in-class sustained download speeds
- Gigabit Ethernet
- USB 2.0 High Speed
The Probe device is tightly integrated with Green Hills' MULTI Integrated Development Environment (IDE). The company claims that MULTI supports more target processors, Operating Systems (OS), and third-party tools than any other IDE, including target configurations with home-grown proprietary OS or even no OS.
Robert Redfield, Green Hills' Director of Partner Business Development, tells me that he believes their product is differentiated in three primary areas, "high speed- approaching the theoretical maximum; the wide variety of supported target architectures; and 3 host interfaces." To the latter point, Redfield adds that the Probe family has been shipping since 2001 and has customers "in the thousands." Those existing users can simply swap the external target adapter (processor architecture-specific) and reload IA-specific firmware on their existing Probes to migrate their embedded designs to IA without compromising software engineering productivity. The importance of tools availability in the hardware selection process should not be underestimated, especially tools that are familiar to the developer.
As for availability and pricing, Redfield says that there are currently multiple beta customers using the Probe, representing a diverse set of embedded applications. If you are interested in early access, Green Hills will consider additional qualified beta customers before the product is released to general availability.
While he declined to publish a price figure, Redfield did offer that the Probe is "considerably less expensive than legacy IA probes." I am sure that your Green Hills representative will quote you a price if you are a serious buyer. Although I don't have the figures to compare, as I speculated in my previous blog it only makes sense that we would see some movement in the pricing as more competition enters the market.
As mentioned above, I plan a future post on Macraigor to round out the picture on JTAG support for IA. In the meantime, your feedback would be most welcome, either on the specific tools mentioned here or on the topic in general. As Intel continues enabling additional software and tools companies to support embedded IA developers, what would you like to see next?
J. Felix McNulty
Intel® Embedded Community