Sunday, December 11, 2016

On 64-bit and roadmap alignment

By Romain Saha
Strategic Alliances Manager
Blackberry QNX

One of the coolest things about my job is getting to see all the silicon roadmaps. OK, I’m a nerd. That is not a surprise to anyone I’m sure. Still, there’s a lot of amazing innovation going on. You just haven’t heard about. Yet. And you won’t hear it from me. Sorry.

Except maybe that the embedded world – at least in the areas we play – is going 64-bit. Pretty much already gone 64-bit actually. Intel architecture has been 64-bit for as long as I can remember. ARMv8 is almost exclusively 64-bit. It’s here. It’s real. You can buy it. Pretty much everybody has it.

Graphics is another area that is moving fast. The latest embedded GPUs are really impressive. I know of one chip that actually has two full-blown GPUs on a single die. The things I’m seeing on the bench are amazing. Light-years ahead of where we were only a generation ago.

Roadmap alignment is key for us. We need to make sure our products sing with our silicon partner’s technology. We need to make sure customers can take the latest SoCs and build the things stuff the world wants.

One of the things the world wants these days is a digital cockpit - a unified experience across multiple displays in the cabin.  That is happening today but it takes two SoCs to do it, one for cluster and one for infotainment system. It also takes space, power, cabling, connectors and inter-processor communication. Hassle. Lots of hassle I bet.

The obvious dream is to eliminate all this cost and complexity and just use a single SoC for both. Easy. Except digital instrument clusters and infotainment systems are different. Very different.

Infotainment systems need lots of horsepower. They use lots of memory. Navigation systems alone can drive addressing past 4 Gigabytes. Huge state diagrams. They also need lots of eye-candy. GPU performance is key. Complicated indeed.

Digital instrument clusters need incredibly smooth graphics performance but are relatively simple otherwise. Except that they are safety critical. Enter ISO26262 certification. Overlay that with making sure what you think you are rendering is actually what gets displayed. If the screen says P(ark) and the car is in R(everse) people get hurt. Or worse. Clusters are complicated too.

What do you need to make all this work? For sure you need a 64-bit safety-certified embedded OS. You need a hypervisor with the ability share graphics across virtual machines. You need ISO26262 top to bottom as well as a way to ensure cluster rendered output matches the intended output. And you need an SoC with the juice to make it all happen. That’s a lot. No wonder people think the single chip digital cockpit is still a dream.

No comments:

Post a Comment