ARM Partners with Carbon on Cortex-A57

ARM Partners with Carbon on Cortex-A57
by Paul McLellan on 05-31-2013 at 3:37 pm

 Just in time for DAC, Carbon have announced that they have expanded their partnership with ARM to create and deliver models for the ARM Cortex-A57 processor and related IP. One piece of related IP is the Cortex-A53 which can be configured in big.LITTLE multi-core setups to achieve the sweet spot of higher performance and lower power. A57 when you need it, A53 when you don’t.

 But ARM’s IP family has got quite extensive and the agreement also includes the Corelink CCN-504 cache-coherent network and the Mali-T628 GPU. Carbon will take all this technology and compile 100% accurate virtual models as well as Carbon Performance Analysis Kits (CPAKs) that can boot Android or Linux in seconds while still preserving Carbon’s secret sauce, the capability to switch to 100% accurate representation at any breakpoint and then proceed with almost any level of detail of the design exposed. A bit like big.LITTLE: accuracy when you need it, high speed when you don’t.

A57 and A53 are ARM’s first 64-bit cores. They can run 32-bit legacy applications too. In fact 32-bit versions of the core are also available. Who knows when we will really need 64-bit in our phones, but in the meantime the focus is on producing very low power servers for specialist datacenter applications. The ARM licensees focused on this market all have value propositions something like 10% cost, 10% power and 10% of the physical volume of equivalent traditional (Intel) solutions. For internet applications, being able to handle millions of transactions simultaneously at low power and cost is more important than the single thread performance of any one transaction (weather forecasting or simulating nuclear bombs is the other way around, but the fast growing part of the market is datacenters for Apple, Facebook, Amazon, eBay etc) making for a real opportunity.

A system including A57, A53 and Mali is pretty complicated since everything has cache coherent interoperability. There may be more than one core of A57 or A53 of course (as in the latest Samsung phone that contains 4 high performance and 4 low power cores although they are earlier Cortex-A15/A9 not the A57/53).

Carbon makes it feasible to run full software loads on the design, even very early when decisions are being made about which cores to use and how many. They can then be used for early (pre-silicon, in fact pre-RTL, pre-everything except basic architectural decisions) software development and high visibility post-silicon debug. Plus, they can drop into fully accurate mode to debug subtle problems with hardware or device drivers or to get accurate timing for critical algorithms.

As usual, models will be available from Carbon’s IP Exchange web portal which is here. Models of the A57 and Mali-T628 are available today for select early access partners.

Carbon will be at DAC but they won’t have their own booth. They will be in the…surprise…ARM booth, #921.