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Embedded Systems October 2000 Vol13_11

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FIGURE Bundle PC Cluster 0 Instruction Fetch Cache and Expansion Unit (FCEXU) Interrupt and Exception Controller Core Memory Controller (CMC) and Inter- Cluster Bus (ICB) New twist Enter Lx. In fact, the Lx team has not eschewed SOC; they've just gone about it in a slightly different manner, one they believe gives the concept a lit- tle more utili ty. The Lx architecture consists of a fam ily of cores, according to Josh Fishel-, head o[ HP Labs. Fisher is often referred to as "th father of VLIW" for his cutting-edge work on the technology at Multiflow Computer in the 1980s. "It's a core for a SOC, but it's a family which has been designed for your domain of application, and typically designed witll a large customer in mind," said Fisher. High performance comes from its VLIW hel;tage, which gives it the abili ty to exploit instnKtion-level paral- lelism (ILP) . It is also customizable for different application domains. "Lx is also enhanced by tlle fact that the customized cores all 'feel' to the user like tlley' re in the same fami- ly," said Fisher-sometlling that's pre- viously been difficult to achieve with VLIW designs. "So, we were able to do customization without a lot of incre- mental engineering and cost to tlle customer. " Lx's creators reiterate that it is intended to be used in system-on-chip configurations, where it can be mar- ried up with appropriate additional processor capabilities and desired peripherals. It's certainly not being touted as a general-purpose micro- proce or, which requires a notorious- ly expensive infrastructure of develop- ment tools. One possible application would be in a set-top box, where the multiple Lx cores could be configured on a single chip to handle, for exam- ple, general-purpose processing, MPEG decoding, and streaming media data types. Although HP and ST do not like to use DSP in regards to Lx-"DSP is too specialized"-they note, perhaps the Lx is more DSP-like than anything else. (Strictly speaking, the companies see Lx as a convergence of DSP and microconu-oller.) 112 oa OBER 2000 Embedded Systems Programming Indeed, the Lx prototypes, which are due by the end of the year, will enter a DSP market tllat's been flood- ed by new devices and turned into a testbed [or everything from reconfig- urable computing DSPs to VLTW design. Competitors will likely run tlle gamut from high-flying upstarts such as the reconfigurable chips from Tensili ca, through to VLIW DSPs such as Motorola's StarCore, TI's TMS320C62xx famil y, and Phi lli ps' Trimedia. Also sure to remain in the mix are tt-ied-and-true general-purpose platforms such as MIPS and ARM. Under the hood For each potential customer, the Lx custom processors would be architect- ed by an automated hardware/ soft- ware co-design process. Such chips would be churned out in very low vol- umes for specific, deeply embedded applications. A major impetus for the ventu re is a perceived need to supply tlle bur- geoning demands of smart embedded

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