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The Importance of Ecosystems in the Internet of Things Era

Comments(0)Filed under: System Design and Verification, ARM, embedded systems, Internet of Things, ARM ecosystem, electronics design

As we develop electronics in early 2014, the battle between processor architectures is raging in all spaces, from deeply embedded through mobile to servers. Choosing the right ecosystem partners is crucially important, and today's announcement of an extended partnership between ARM and Cadence marks important steps towards increasing productivity for ARM-based designs.

About two years back, I had tried to make sense of what I perceived as chaos at the Embedded Systems Conference, pointing to processor architectures like ARM's and Intel's as the keystones for the ecosystems to which we contribute development tools and peripheral IP. I have just returned from the Embedded World conference in Nuremberg - several times bigger than ESC in the US - and the picture has not become any less fragmented. ARM celebrated the shipment of 50 billion devices at their booth on Wednesday of Embedded World - they are certainly a key ecosystem partner for Cadence. In a brief video interview two years ago, I actually talked about how we work together with ARM in the systems domain.

Internet of Things IoT electronics ARM system verification

And dependencies have become even closer since then. Consider the illustration associated with this post, outlining a chain of electronics found in the Internet of Things (IoT). Devices create data, like in my case the sleep and step tracker on my wrist. Data gets collected in some type of hub - my phone or my computer. Other hubs are my car and potentially my living room devices (for home-related items like my solar panels and alarm system). The hub collects data and - when available - uploads data to the cloud. And in the cloud my data becomes incredibly valuable as a source of "big data" analytics. I am not quite sure what would be worse - my Mom knowing the low number of steps I may be making on a lazy day, or my health insurance getting their hands on that data to know my work-out habits. My conscience is pretty clean on both, but nonetheless ...

This chain shows how the value is created not by the individual components but, instead, by the combination of them, from device though hub to the cloud that holds the data that is analyzed! The server space that holds the data to be analyzed is the traditional x86 space into which ARM has entered with the ARMv8 64-bit architecture. The mobile space - the hub - is the space that ARM dominates and into which Intel has been trying to enter for quite some time with the Atom architecture. Finally, the traditional deeply embedded space of devices and sensors is the space into which ARM has entered with the Cortex®-M and Cortex-R architectures.

The announcement we made today at CDNLive talks to our partnership with ARM in three areas, focused around the v8 architecture.

  • Fast Models for software development, including v8 models, are now available through Cadence to users. The focus here is the connection of the Virtual System Platform (VSP) into which the Fast Models are integrated, with our hardware engines - Incisive and Palladium. As previously reported by Broadcom and NVIDIA, the connection with the Palladium XP platform, for example, allows up to 60X faster OS boot-up. The net effect is that users can get to the point at which embedded software tests can be executed (and run up to 10X faster) within minutes, as opposed to hours, which is a huge productivity improvement. This is especially useful for the mobile space - the hub that collects data from the device and delivers it to the cloud, as well as the server space in which Palladium XP emulation is used extensively to validate the v8-based server chips.
  • Cadence Verification IP is now available for the latest ARM® AMBA® 5 CHI protocol for simulation and the Palladium XP II platform. The CHI protocol enables ARM Cortex-A50 series processors to work together in high-performance, coherent processing "hubs", delivering the high data rates that are common in enterprise markets, such as servers and networking. In the illustration above, this is related to the cloud server area and the networking connecting everything.
  • The Cadence Interconnect Workbench has been improved for ARM CoreLinkTM interconnect IP-based systems to deliver 10X faster performance verification and analysis. Interconnect Workbench integrates with AMBA Designer - ARM's tool to configure the interconnect - and allows users to optimize the performance of their ARM based sub-systems. This functionality is useful across the board for both the hub and the server chips enabling the cloud.

As it relates to the devices measuring the data in the first place, we have already talked about how ARM and Cadence work together to enable Cortex-M based systems. We also showed at Embedded World last year how software on a Cortex-M processor can be simulated together with the analog/mixed-signal components.

Enabling developments for the Internet of Things requires strong ecosystems, and with today's announcement, the ARM ecosystem just became stronger!


Frank Schirrmeister


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