MADISON, Wis. — Virtualization is roaring into the embedded world, especially in the automotive sector.
The need to run a growing number of operating systems, applications, and tasks safely on the same ECU inside cars has gotten practically everyone in the automotive food chain talking about hypervisors -- computer software, firmware, or hardware for creating and running virtual machines.
Mentor Graphics Corp. unveiled its Mentor Embedded Hypervisor on Thursday. It was developed for designers of automotive embedded systems, ranging from in-vehicle infomation systems to telematics, advanced driver assistance systems, and instrumentation. Mentor says its small-footprint Type 1 hypervisor, developed specifically for embedded applications, delivers high performance and security for multicore processors, allowing system designers to use multiple operating systems and applications running on the consolidated ECU.
On Wednesday, ARM unveiled a new microprocessor architecture specifically designed to run deterministic, real-time embedded applications in automotive electronics and other industrial control systems. The ARMv8-R architecture features what ARM calls a "bare-metal" hypervisor mode.
Though ARM publicly shared the hardware-assisted virtualization idea that sits in the new architecture this week, it won't be rolling out its actual cores based on the ARMv8-R until next year.
Mentor will ship its Embedded Hypervisor product in December.
"Embedded hypervisors offer high performance and strong isolation," Warren Kurisu, director of product management runtime solutions at Mentor, told us. As general operating systems such as Linux and Android gain widespread adoption in the automotive world, system designers need a hypervisor to keep operating system environments isolated.
Virtualization also works for IP protection, he said. "Suppose you have your own proprietary implementation of Linux. You don't want anyone to mix it with general Linux. The hypervisor software can help you."
Users of Mentor's Embedded Hypervisor do not necessarily need to wait for ARMv8-R cores featuring a hardware-assisted virtualization mode. Mentor says its product leverages the ARM TrustZone for applications requiring hardware-based partitioning of resources such as crypto blocks, keyboard/screens, and memory, creating a separate, secure operating environment.
Mentor Embedded Hypervisor.
(Source: Mentor Graphics)
Kurisu offered the example of a new SoC designed for automotive vision applications in the advanced driver assistant system. Multiple cores, different codecs, hardware accelerators, and others are integrated into the single device. Various automotive vision and multimedia applications, while running on the same SoC, have different requirements; for example, a backup camera has to boot up right away, but that may not be the case for other multimedia applications. Certain segments on the device need to be partitioned, thus enabling SoC designers to tune, debug, and update each segment separately.
Mentor's Embedded Hypervisor is capable of handling multicore and multi-OS guests. By supporting ARM's TrustZone, it is security-enabled. It is designed to exploit hardware virtualization extensions for efficiency. The comprehensive solution supports guest OSes, Linux, Android, Nucleus, and Autosar, offering tools and an integrated development environment.
Kurisu said a late-model luxury car might be using up to 65 million lines of code, 30 million of which cover the multimedia system, along with 200 microprocessors. When 10 ECUs need to be connected for FlexRay, 73 for CAN, and 61 for LIN, the number of wires and the length of wiring expand proportionately.
A luxury car already deploys 500 LEDs with no light bulbs. "The important things about all these LEDs are they are software controlled," and that's more software that ECUs must run.
OEMs want to reduce costs by having more ECUs consolidated, thus reducing wiring. System designers need effective and flexible tools to help them consolidate functionality while meeting the demands of today's complex and highly connected devices. Tools like the Mentor Embedded Hypervisor exist to "take the pain out of designers," so that they don't have to keep doing more manual and custom work to do their own consolidation.