To deal with the high cost of labor and to improve product quality, manufacturers are ramping up their implementation of computer controlled production line machinery and equipment. In fact, IMS Research reports that the global industrial automation market is expected to grow to $159.8 Billion in 2012 and to go beyond $200 Billion in 2015. Embedded software plays a pivotal role in this industrial automation environment and allows manufacturers to rapidly switch between products, easily integrate new control systems, and securely manage functionality from local or remote locations. Along with the hardware performance improvements, the new 3rd-Generation Intel® Core™ (formerly codenamed Ivy Bridge) architecture includes a number of features that will enhance embedded software development for industrial applications and improve the throughput of many control and analysis algorithms.


This new multi-core processor architecture is based on a tri-gate transistor design and 22 nm process technology which together boosts software performance by up to 20% compared to previous generations. The 3rd-Generation Intel® Core™ processor features a significantly upgraded graphics engine which makes it possible to double the 3-D graphics and HD media processing performance for industrial image sensing and display applications and control up to three independent displays simultaneously. The processor architecture also incorporates the Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX) instruction set to optimize high speed calculations and potentially eliminate external hardware-based digital signal processing circuitry. Industrial software designers can take advantage of much improved I/O data rates with Ivy Bridge to speed real-time analysis routines. For example, PCI Express 3.0 is implemented within the processor and extends rates to 8 gigatransfers per second while USB 3.0 moves data at 5 gigabits per second when coupled with the Intel® 7 Series Chipset Family.


As embedded designers work to upgrade and combine existing industrial automation technology with the latest state-of-the-art high speed, real-time control systems, virtualization software combined with the new 3rd-Generation Intel® Core™ architecture offers a number of advantages.  With multi-core software virtualization technology, such as TenAsys Corporation's eVM for Windows (See figure 1), designers can join a real-time operating system alongside Windows on the same multi-core processor platform. eVM partitions the platform to ensure that critical hardware interfaces are not virtualized, guaranteeing maximum performance and deterministic response to real-time events.  The 3rd-Generation Intel® Core™ supports Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT) to improve the performance of software-based virtualization operations by using hardware-assist to allocate memory and I/O devices to specific partitions to decrease the processor load and reduce virtual machine switching times.




Security and safety are also critical items to consider when developing software for industrial automation applications. Several embedded software suppliers provide products that take advantage of the enhanced isolation and security provisions provided by Intel® VT and Ivy Bridge. For example, the Wind River Hypervisor allows designers to partition hardware devices, memory, and cores into virtual machines, each with its own operating system while maintaining the necessary separation. (See figure 2).  The hypervisor allows system designers to isolate the safety-certified components while still operating on a single hardware platform utilizing a certified virtual machine monitor. Virtualization improves the potential uptime of embedded industrial systems since individual partitions can be rebooted or reprogrammed without affecting other applications on the same device.


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In addition to the virtualization and security features described above, software developers addressing industrial automation applications with Ivy Bridge can take advantage of Intel® vPro Technology to access, control, and reconfigure a remote embedded system. vPro includes Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) with certificate-based security for remote access regardless of the operational status of the system. This technology provides industrial automation support teams an economical method to monitor, manage, and control a large number of production platforms from a central location. If you are ready to start an industrial 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 view other community content on virtualization, see "Virtualization - Top Picks


Warren Webb
OpenSystems Media®, by special arrangement with the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance


Wind River Systems is an Associate member of the by Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. TenAsys Corporation is an Affiliate member of the Alliance.