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Thursday, October 22, 2015

AMD heads into embedded (again)

By Nick Flaherty

AMD is making another move into the embedded market with its latest Merlin Falcon system on chip. This time the company has integrated the south bridge into the chip to include all the I/O support and reduce the footprint in embedded designs.

The company has also paid attention to security, adding an ARM Cortex A50 processor with ARM's TrustZone technology to provide the start of a secure chain for connecting to the Internet. It is also qualifying parts for the higher temperature range needed for embedded and industrial applications. 

The Embedded R-Series SOC processors include third generation Radeon graphics processor units (GPUs), aiming at small form factor boards for graphic-intensive and video applications, particularly in commercial gaming systems and medial applications. The GPUs allow a hardware-enabled H.265 (HEVC) decoder and DirectX 12 to be used for 4K video.

The family uses newest AMD 64-bit x86 CPU core, called Excavator, along with a new approach to power management for reduced energy consumption. This allows the processor to 'move' functions between the GPUs and the processor to keep the device within a specified power envelope. This envelope is between 12W and 35W in 1W steps to keep the cost of thermal management to a minimum.

The ARM core supports a secure boot with AMD Hardware Validated Boot (HVB) and initiates trusted boot environment before starting the x86 cores.

The device is also designed for the industry's unified memory architecture that shares the memory between the CPU and GPUs, making application development (and the power management) easier. The devices have the first Heterogeneous Systems Architecture (HSA) 1.0 certification, and support for the latest dual channel ECC DDR4-2400 memory as well as existing DDR3-2133 designs so that sysems can be easily upgraded for higher performance in the future. 

Customers in several industries such as machine learning, medical imaging and digital signage often need to execute compute intensive, parallel processing algorithms, and HSA is a standardized platform design that allows the GPU to be used as a parallel compute engine. This allows developers to more easily and efficiently apply the hardware resources in today's SoCs, enabling applications to run faster and at lower power across a range of computing platforms. 

"With so much momentum around immersive experiences, especially for visual and parallel computing, the embedded industry needs a high-performance, low-power and efficient architecture with superior graphics and compute capabilities," said Scott Aylor, corporate vice president and general manager, AMD Embedded Solutions. "The Embedded R-Series SOC is a strong match for these needs in a variety of industries including digital signage, retail signage, medical imaging, electronic gaming machines, media storage, and communications and networking."
The R-Series SOCs offer 22 percent improved GPU performance over the second generation AMD Embedded R-Series APU and AMD claims to have a 58 percent advantage against the Intel's Broadwell Core i7 when running graphics-intensive benchmarks.

AMD will support the Embedded R-Series SOC through the next ten years, and the processors support Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Embedded 7 and 8 Standard, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and AMD's all-open Linux driver including Mentor Embedded Linux from Mentor Graphics and their Sourcery CodeBench IDE development tools. Developers can also use the Yocto Linux project versions.

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