SAN JOSE, Calif. Freescale Semiconductor has announced a set of applications modules for its embedded multicore processors in an effort to reduce the amount of parallel software its OEM customers need to develop. The move marks a significant step beyond the relatively low level code chip makers routinely supply.
Silicon vendors have shifted to multicore designs to boost processor performance due to the unacceptable power consumption of faster single-core CPUs. But the hardware shift forces a need for a parallel programming model, something top computer scientists are still trying to define
Freescale hopes its so-called VortiQa software helps OEMs stitch together apps for its chips while new parallel techniques and tools are still in the works.
"VortiQa is a first of its kind in the embedded market," said Christian Heidarson, an analyst based in Hong Kong for market watcher Gartner. "No other processor company targeting this market has offered software at such a high level." he said.
Most other embedded processor vendors offer operating systems or middleware but not full applications.
"Wind River has also been working on creating application stacks, but not to the depth of VortiQa," Heidarson said. "With the acquisition of Wind River, Intel gains the capability to develop a similar solution," he added.
Freescale leads the pack of embedded processor vendors by far, according to Gartner. Its 2008 sales were estimated at about $654 million compared to number two Intel at $110 million. Applied Micro Circuits came in a close third at $90 million with Broadcom, Cavium and RMI trailing the pack, Gartner estimates.
The VortiQa code is optimized for Freescale's QorIQ and PowerQUICC processors. It consists of a set of modules targeting systems for service providers, enterprise networks and gateways for home and small businesses.
The modules include virtual private networking code using IPSec for a broad range of systems. There also are stateful packet inspection firewalls for edge routers and switches, virus and spam filters for business networks and network address translators for gateways.
"Our goal is to help our customers ship products to the market more quickly," said Sathyan Iyengar, vice president of software products in Freescale's networking and multimedia group.
Iyengar is the former chief executive of Intoto, Inc., a 150-person company acquired by Freescale in October 2008. Intoto sold a similar suite of parallel apps for comms systems geared for a wide range of embedded processors, code that Freescale has now tuned and qualified for its latest chips.
The software support a variety of symmetric and asymmetric multiprocessing models used in Freescale's QorIQ and PowerQuicc chips. OEMs could use the new modules to provide as much as 80 percent of the application-layer software needed for some of their systems designs, Iyengar said.
The software can run on top of Freescale's existing lightweight executive for data plane environments. For control planes, it supports Linux, OSE from Enea and VxWorks from Wind River.
Freescale is considering developing similar modules for storage and access systems as well as apps code for digital media markets. The current modules are available now with licensing fees available upon request.