Designing SOCs with Configured Cores

Unleashing the Tensilica Xtensa and Diamond Cores


  • Steve Leibson, Technology Evangelist, Tensilica, Inc, Santa Clara, CA, USA

Microprocessor cores used for SOC design are the direct descendents of Intel’s original 4004 microprocessor. Just as packaged microprocessor ICs vary widely in their attributes, so do microprocessors packaged as IP cores. However, SOC designers still compare and select processor cores the way they previously compared and selected packaged microprocessor ICs. The big problem with this selection method is that it assumes that the laws of the microprocessor universe have remained unchanged for decades. This assumption is no longer valid.Processor cores for SOC designs can be far more plastic than microprocessor ICs for board-level system designs. Shaping these cores for specific applications produces much better processor efficiency and much lower system clock rates. Together, Tensilica’s Xtensa and Diamond processor cores constitute a family of software-compatible microprocessors covering an extremely wide performance range from simple control processors, to DSPs, to 3-way superscalar processors. Yet all of these processors use the same software-development tools so that programmers familiar with one processor in the family can easily switch to another.This book emphasizes a processor-centric MPSOC (multiple-processor SOC) design style shaped by the realities of the 21st-century and nanometer silicon. It advocates the assignment of tasks to firmware-controlled processors whenever possible to maximize SOC flexibility, cut power dissipation, reduce the size and number of hand-built logic blocks, shrink the associated verification effort, and minimize the overall design risk.
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PRIMARY: Industry practitioners; System-on-Chip engineers designing embedded systems.SECONDARY: Text for undergraduate and graduate level courses on Embedded Systems.


Book information

  • Published: July 2006
  • ISBN: 978-0-12-372498-4


Designing SOCs with Configured Processor Cores is an essential reference for system-on-chip designers. This well-written book gives a practical introduction to three basic techniques of modern SOC design: use of optimized standard CPU and DSP processors cores, application-specific configuration of processor cores, and system-level design of SOCs using configured cores as the key building block. Readers will find it is often the first book they reach for in defining and designing their next chip. — Chris Rowen, President and CEO, Tensilica, Inc. We're poised on the brink of a revolution in computing. Instead of fixed-architecture processors suited only to general-purpose computing or special-purpose digital signal processing tasks, we're moving to system-on-chip (SoC) devices containing multiple processor cores, each configured to perform specific tasks with extreme performance while consuming ultra-low power. The surf is up - and this book tells us how to ride the wave! — Clive “Max” Maxfield, President, TechBites Interactive and author of The Design Warrior’s Guide to FPGAs Steve Leibson's book is a gentle introduction to the art of digital electronics design capturing an important moment in the creation of the complete system on a chip. Generously dotted with block diagrams and snippets of code using the vehicle furnished by Xtensa technology, the book takes the reader through the evolution that led to multiple cores and configurable engines. — Max Baron, Senior Analyst at The Microprocessor Report

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction to 21st-century SOC designChapter 2: The SOC design flow Chapter 3: Xtensa architectural basicsChapter 4: Basic processor configurabilityChapter 5: MPSOC system architectures and design toolsChapter 6: Introduction to Diamond coresChapter 7: The Diamond 108Mini controller coreChapter 8: The Diamond 212GP controller coreChapter 9: The Diamond 232L CPU coreChapter 10: The Diamond 570T superscalar CPU coreChapter 11: The Diamond 330HiFi superscalar audio DSP CoreChapter 12: The Diamond 545CK superscalar DSP CoreChapter 13: Using fixed processor cores in SOC systemsChapter 14: Beyond fixed coresChapter 15: The future of SOC design