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When Your Embedded Processor Runs Out of Steam, Try Parallelism


The scenario is becoming increasingly familiar.‎ You have a working embedded design, perhaps backed by years of deployment with customers and hundreds of thousands of lines of debugged code.‎ Along comes marketing with a new set of performance specifications, or R/D with a new computer-crushing algorithm.‎ Your existing CPU family just can’t handle it.‎

At this point your options can look uniformly dismal.‎ Perhaps you can move to a higher-performance CPU family without totally losing instruction-set compatibility.‎ But there will almost certainly be enough differences to require a new operating-system (OS) version and re-verification of the code.‎ And the new CPU will have new hardware implications, from increased power consumption to different DRAM interfaces.‎

Of course you can also move to a faster CPU with a different instruction set.‎ But a new tool chain, from compiler to debug, plus the task of finding all those hidden instruction-set dependencies in your legacy code, can make this move genuinely frightening.‎ And changing SoC vendors will have system-level hardware implications too.‎



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