Cray looks at ARM64 for supercomputing

Cortex-A57-chip-diagram-LGCray is evaluating 64bit ARM processors alongside Intel products for its supercomputers, partly under a US Government program called FastForward 2 which asks the firm to explore 64bit ARMs for high performance computing (HPC).

Cray is also working with 64bit ARM chip company Cavium to build processing clusters based on Cavium’s 48 ARM core ThunderX processors to test ARM architectures for supercomputing.

“Our adaptive supercomputing vision centres on system designs that integrate diverse processing technologies into a unified architecture,” said Cray CTO Steve Scott. “We see alternatives such as 64bit ARM, custom ASICs and low-power Intel processors as enabling technologies for certain HPC and analytics workloads.

Cavium has been demonstrating ThunderX silicon at SC14 in New Orleans this week, including it running Red Hat Linux and Canonical Ubuntu Server Distribution operating systems, and Java 8 and Apache Web Server applications.


steve bush

Drone legislation needed, Met tells House of Lords

3d robotics droneDrones need legislation, the House of Lords Internal Market, Infrastructure and Employment Committee was told by chief inspector Nick Aldworth of the Metropolitan Police yesterday.

“We are seeing this technology being used for criminal conduct,” Aldworth told the Lords. “We have positively seen it flown in controlled airspace, we have positively seen it used to harass people, and we have seen it flown in transgression of air navigation orders, so I think that concern arises by the fact that there is clearly a means of offending that we do not seem to be necessarily able to address quickly.”

Baroness O’Cathain, chair of the House of Lords committee, said there were concerns about invasion of privacy but Aldworth pointed out that, in the absence of a criminal offence of invasion of privacy, invasion of privacy was not a police matter.

Aldworth said there were cases of drones snooping on bedroom windows and that Angela Merkel had been harassed by a drone. He said that the usual way that drone harassment came to light was that video was posted on the internet of what the drone had seen.

Aldworth is working with a unit set up to look into issues surrounding drones.

david manners

Cavendish Kinetics raises $7m

Cavendish antenna tuning - Devices with MIPI RFFE Interface

Cavendish antenna tuning – Devices with MIPI RFFE Interface

Thirteen years after it raised its first funding, Cavendish Kinetics, the RF MEMS antenna tuner specialist, has raised $7m.

The company’s first funding round was in 2001 when it raised $6.5m. In 2006, it raised $15.5m.

The company has changed its product plans along the way. Originally it set out to make a MEMS-based memory. Now it is making RF MEMS antenna tuners and it recently announced its first success with a design-in at ZTE.

Qualcomm Ventures participated in the new funding round, along with Tallwood Venture Capital, Wellington Partners and other existing investors.

The company describes its product as ‘a precise, reliable, lossless, small, variable capacitor for antenna tuning’.

The company’s thesis is that, by the time a signal gets to the chip-set for processing, it has been degraded by the antenna, the switch and the filter to 25% of its original strength, and 60% of that  degradation is caused by the antenna.

Antenna size and LTE spectrum are critical elements to this. A small antenna means a drop in efficiency and, with LTE deployed in 40 different bands, the antenna has to cover a wider bandwidth.

Antennas have the best performance at the frequency for which they were designed. So you need to change the characteristics of the antenna to match the change in frequency.

The tuning is done with a MEMS capacitor: 32 capacitor stages pick the best settings to maximise antenna performance with ‘near zero’ loss.

Cavendish claims its technology doubles data rates and delivers up to 40% longer battery life with fewer dropped calls while avoiding the need to increase the size of the antenna.

david manners

X-Fab and Korea’s Silicon Works combine on auto

xfabX-FAB and Silicon Works of Korea have produced their first automotive device – a signal processing IC – under a co-development programme aimed at import substitution for Korea car makers.

The chip is being made at X-FAB’s 200mm facility in Kuching, Malaysia.

This product for non-magnetic position or displacement sensors, suitable for automotive and industrial applications, is fully qualified according to AECQ100 standards.

X-FAB derives over half its revenues from automotive devices.

Further devices are already in the prototyping phase, deepening the relationship of both companies and laying the foundation for market success.

“The combination of Silicon Works’ design excellence and our manufacturing excellence produced tangible results within a remarkably short timeframe,” says X-Fab CEO, Rudi de Winter.

david manners

Symtavision tools get faster

Symtavision - SymTA-S

SymTA/S – Symtavision’s model-based system for timing design, performance optimization and timing verification

Symtavision, which specialises in timing analysis solutions for planning, optimising and verifying embedded real-time systems, has announced the release of SymTA/S 3.6 delivering up to 20x faster system distribution and worst-case analysis runtime performance.

SymTA/S 3.6 delivers runtime speed improvements for system distribution and worst-case analyses of between two and 20 times, and often more, depending on the system complexity.

Overall memory usage for analysis runs has also been significantly reduced with 100+ runs also now requiring no more RAM than that required by a single run previously.

Data consistency analysis of multicore systems has been enhanced with an improved capability to explicitly model call types for variable access, added modelling of protected variable accesses such as double buffering and improved performance for systems with many variables.

The FlexRay system distribution analysis now facilitates analysis of frame displacement in the dynamic segment, data loss and used/unused slots per cycle.

The ability to determine system distribution analysis starting behavior has also been enhanced with explicit modeling of the starting points of elements to facilitate the simulation of start-up behaviour and enable user-defined activation patterns. There is also a new data annotation element enabling any kind of additional information in a model to be stored in a generic way.

The AUTOSAR 3.x/4.x importer now supports ARXML files generated by Vector DaVinci and the extraction of more information from incomplete ARXML files. Additionally, trace import in SymTA/S and TraceAnalyzer now works in conjunction with Symtavision’s Lauterbach Trace32 interface and supports more detailed traces such as wait-release behavior.

david manners

FPGA makes supercomputer run faster

IBM_POWER8Altera and IBM have designed an FPGA-based reconfigurable processor to improve the performance of supercomputers.

The firms have created the first FPGA-based accelerator for a POWER8 CPU which features shared virtual memory between the FPGA and processor and so improves system performance in high-performance computing (HPC) and data centre applications for data compression, encryption, image processing and search.

Altera and IBM are presenting several POWER8 systems that are coherently accelerated using FPGAs at SuperComputing 2014.

FPGAs are connected to the POWER8 CPU using IBM’s Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface (CAPI). This makes the FPGA appear as simply another core on the POWER8 processor.

The expectation is this will shorten development time by greatly reducing lines of software code and reduced processor cycles versus conventional IO attached accelerators. A single FPGA-accelerated POWER8 server is able to operate at industry-leading levels of efficiency, allowing system architects to cut their data center footprint in half.

“With rapidly changing workloads, it is imperative we build in flexible accelerators to make IBM POWER processors more efficient in IBM Power Systems and all OpenPOWER compatible systems,” said Brad McCredie, vice president of IBM Power development and OpenPOWER president.

“The work Altera has done to provide FPGA-based reconfigurable hardware acceleration to our POWER processors enabled through CAPI allows software developers to build highly efficient, highly flexible, performance optimised systems,” said MCCredie.

Altera and IBM have worked with board partner Nallatech to develop an OpenPOWER CAPI development kit for POWER8 that features Nallatech’s FPGA-based 385 card, the industry’s first CAPI FPGA accelerator card.

richard wilson

Europe’s distributors have a strong Q3

DMASS Chart Q3-2014

DMASS Chart Q3-2014

The European semiconductor distribution industry is looking forward to a healthy growth in 2014.

According to DMASS (Distributors’ and Manufacturers’ Association of Semiconductor Specialists) semiconductor distribution sales in Q3 grew by 7.3% to €1.57bn.

The UK, Germany, Turkey, Russia, Iberia, Austria and Israel all grew above the 7.3% market average. France and Italy reporting lower growth.

Q3 sales in Germany were €510m, in UK 135m and France 121m.

“The 7.3% has set us on a growth course for 2014 of 6 to 7% for DMASS total, which is remarkable after the 2-year spluttering of 2012 and 2013. 2014 will end up a little short of the record year 2011,” said Georg Steinberger, chairman of DMASS.

Over 9 months Germany accounts for 32% of the European market, 9.8% for Italy, 8.5 for the UK, 7.7% for France, 9% for Nordic and 11.2% for Eastern Europe.

Georg Steinberger: “In general, considering the macro-economic environment for Europe at the moment, the outlook for 2015 is only moderate. However, Europeans tend to see glass half-full far too often for my taste. Let us be hopeful that 2015 will have some positive surprises for our industry.”

richard wilson

FTDI Chip launches USB 3.0 ICs

FT600Q and FT601Q are FTDI Chip’s first generation USB 3.0 products that function as SuperSpeed USB 3.0 to FIFO bridges, providing data bursting rates of up to 3.2Gbps.

The FT600Q comes in 56-pin QFN package and has a 16-bit wide FIFO bus interface, while FT601Q comes in 76-pin QFN package and has a 32-bit wide FIFO bus interface.

Both these chips support up to 8 endpoints, other than the management endpoints. The endpoints are linked to a configurable endpoint buffers of 16kByte length for IN and 16kByte for OUT.

Both FT600Q and FT601Q support two interfacing modes; the 245 FIFO mode and the multi-channel FIFO mode, and thus provide more flexibility for system designers.

The 245 FIFO mode has a simpler protocol, but for more sophisticated customers, the multi-channel FIFO mode supports up to 4 logical FIFO channels and data structures optimised for higher throughputs. The FIFO is provided with a 16kByte configurable buffer.

The remote wake up function on these chips can be used to rapidly bring the USB host controller out of suspend mode. The USB battery charger detection function enables USB peripheral devices to detect the presence of a higher current power source in order to boost charging capabilities.

It means that the FT600 can detect connection to a USB-compliant dedicated charging port (DCP) and transmit a signal allowing external logic to switch to charging mode. The IC can also benefit from the higher power delivery capabilities that the USB 3.0 standard supports while still being able to transfer data.

Engineers are furnished with a great deal of flexibility to configure FT600/1Q to their desired application. Among these are multi-function printers, scanners, high resolution video cameras, still image cameras, high definition displays, data acquisition systems, surveillance equipment and medical/industrial imaging systems.

The FT600Q and FT601Q ICs have an operating temperature range that covers -40⁰C to 85⁰C. Catering for a design which incorporates multiple data endpoints, a completely new driver architecture has been developed and optimised to extract full performance from the system whilst maintaining FTDI Chip’s standard D2xx API. Driver support provided allows the device to be used with Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems.

david manners