As the performance capabilities of embedded devices continue to increase, designers are seeking ways to meet the demand for advanced HD and 3D graphics. Arun describes how AMD Accelerated Processing Units combine high-performance serial and parallel processing cores with hardware accelerators in a power-efficient platform and discusses the technologies and tools needed to address the processing needs of today’s embedded applications.
ECD: As the embedded market grows in the next few years, what changes will AMD make to capture a larger share?
IYENGAR: AMD designs and produces industry-standard x86 microprocessors in volume and also designs and delivers leading-edge graphics technology enabling designers to deliver innovative and differentiated products to their customers. We are committed to the long-term success of our customers who serve the embedded market, and we demonstrate this commitment on a daily basis by offering a unique combination of technology, products, services, and support that enable customers to quickly bring to market competitive and cost-effective platforms across a broad spectrum of applications.
Customers in the embedded market are relying more on vendors to speed their products to revenue time. To support this key market, AMD Embedded Solutions is creating groups with domain expertise for key embedded product and application areas such as communications infrastructure, industrial controls, digital gaming, and others.
AMD embedded products offer designers a balanced foundation for overall system performance with the quick time to market typically offered by commercial off-the-shelf components. These embedded products give designers ample flexibility to design scalable, x86-based, cost-efficient, and feature-rich products, and help drive energy conservation into their systems without compromising application performance or compatibility, graphics performance, and features.
ECD: What technology trends do you see in the embedded design area?
IYENGAR: Many people don’t realize that most computing devices today are embedded into other types of electronic equipment that don’t resemble a notebook or desktop PC. Today, we’re seeing embedded in a broad range of devices from industrial networking wireless gateways to point-of-sale order-entry stations, and from medical bedside terminals to video slot machines. The performance capabilities of these embedded products continue to advance.
We are excited that more embedded products on the market are leveraging graphics processing capabilities either through the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) in AMD Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) or as discrete AMD Radeon graphics. This trend is becoming an essential requirement for designers, not just for delivering HD and 3D graphics in embedded applications, but also for processing data-intensive workloads that are better suited for the GPU.
The emergence of the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) as an open industry standard will bring to market easy-to-use tools and enable a working environment for developers to write software that fully leverages GPU processing capabilities. AMD, ARM, Imagination Technologies, MediaTek, and Texas Instruments cofounded the HSA Foundation in June 2012. HSA will drive further innovation in embedded products, expanding performance and possibilities.
Additionally, embedded designers are increasingly leveraging Open Computing Language (OpenCL) to accelerate their applications on CPUs, GPUs, and APUs. AMD has been an early supporter of this industry standard and offers a complete acceleration platform for OpenCL.
ECD: What new processor technologies are available to meet the growing customer demand for extremely small low-power embedded devices?
IYENGAR: AMD APUs are a new approach to processor design and software development, delivering powerful CPU and GPU capabilities for HD, 3D, and data-intensive workloads in a single-die processor called an APU. APUs combine high-performance serial and parallel processing cores with other special-purpose hardware accelerators, enabling breakthroughs in visual computing, security, performance per watt, and device form factor.
The first introduction of this technology for embedded applications is the AMD Embedded G-Series Family of APUs, targeted at delivering the ideal combination of price, power, and performance for applications such as integrated digital signage, x86 set-top boxes, thin client, point-of-sale, infotainment, casino gaming, home media servers, industrial control, and automation system markets. The new AMD Embedded R-Series Family of APUs (see Figure 1) delivers high-performance processing coupled with a premium HD visual experience in a solution that is still power efficient. The AMD Embedded R-Series APUs enable integrated graphics and multidisplay capabilities in embedded applications that can be compact and low power.
ECD: With cloud computing dominating embedded designs, what technologies does AMD offer to simplify connectivity and provide the needed security?
IYENGAR: AMD recently announced its collaboration with ARM, leading to the industry-first adoption of ARM TrustZone technology in x86-based solutions. This collaboration will result in the two companies providing robust end-to-end security for client devices to servers to embedded devices and the cloud. An industry-standard security solution that spans multiple processor architectures (ARM and AMD x86-based platforms) is needed to support today’s embedded product designers who want maximum flexibility in processors without compromising security.
Regarding connectivity, many high-end embedded systems today (predominantly x86-based) incorporate PC technology and interface standards such as OpenGL ES (an embedded version of OpenGL) for graphics acceleration, SATA for hard drives, PCI Express for discrete graphics hardware and other expansion capabilities, USB for peripherals, 10/100BASE-T for Ethernet, and DDR2/3 SDRAM for system memory. This adaptation of PC technology in conjunction with the advancement of specific embedded technology standards not only simplifies connectivity, but also enables a wider variety of commercially available operating systems and applications for easy migration and optimization of embedded environments.
ECD: Software development is a huge portion of each new embedded development project. What software tools, libraries, and educational materials does AMD offer developers?
IYENGAR: AMD supports the x86 embedded marketplace with design tools and technology partnerships that offer simplicity and flexibility to help create high-performance, feature-rich, and customer-driven products. AMD offers a wide range of tools and support to designers such as:
- A full range of Reference Design Kit products that enable designers to quickly move from concept to finished product
- A broad array of development boards for creating efficient x86 system designs
- Industry collaborations with leading software and hardware specialists, fostering maximum choice for their unique design needs