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Issues in shifting from single to multi-core

Posted: 19 Mar 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:embedded development  user interface  Multi-threaded  multi-core  instrumentation 

Such advanced features contribute to the goal of understanding the in-depth behaviours of the software/hardware system. Perhaps most important of all, a commercial tool is able to work out of the box so the development team is focused on debugging/optimising their product.

LTTng and LTTng-UST
When defining a standardised approach to instrumenting a software application, a program should consider leveraging existing standards. For example, LTTng and LTTng-UST (User Space Tracing) in the Linux environment meet the requirements for a developer to visualise and analyse much of the system behaviour.

LTTng is focused on the Linux kernel behaviour. LTTng-UST could be considered more of a framework standard for Linux applications, allowing a developer to add custom instrumentation into internally developed applications. Complying with the formatting defined by LTTng will provide an output format that is pre-defined and therefore allows the developer to use available analysis tools and trace viewers for behavioural analysis and debug.

In some cases, it may be necessary to develop a project's own trace data format. This format should be well thought out, and it makes sense that a project does what it can to make the instrumentation compatible with viewers already available. For example, CTF (Common Trace Format) is the trace format standard for LTTng. Using CTF will provide support in open source trace viewers as well as the commercially available and higher power analysis tools.

Conclusion
The fact is that in many cases, single-core, single-threaded, single-OS solutions are history. There will continue to be use cases where a simple system is adequate—the need for a multi-core SoC to be used in a garage door opener doesn't appear to be looming on the horizon, for example. But if one is to remain competitive in today's complex embedded systems, it will be critical to not only consider, but to plan for and implement instrumentation technologies into the design.

Distinct software processes must be included to support these technologies. Don't wait for the results to roll in at integration. It's far more prudent to plan for these tasks up front in the design process, rather than paying a steep price during later phases of product development – when inability to analyse critical system behaviours can have an exponential effect on the success of your embedded design project.

About the author
Don Harbin is the product Engineering Manager for Sourcery Analyser in the Embedded Systems Division at Mentor Graphics Corporation. Don has over 20 years of experience in the embedded industry, spanning hardware/software product development as well as holding leadership positions on large-scale embedded systems services contracts. Don has been involved in embedded Linux solutions since 2001 while holding positions at Intel, MontaVista Software, and currently Mentor Graphics.

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