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Linux-ready probes support networking multi-cores

Jul 10, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 30 views

Swiss hardware tools vendor Abatron announced that its Linux-friendly hardware debug probes now support Cavium's Octeon and Octeon Plus processors. Abatron's BDI2000 and BDI3000 probes “and their associated applications” support multi-core development and control of the massively multicore… MIPS64 networking chips, says the company.

(Click for larger view of Abatron's BDI3000)

According to Abatron, the new BDI firmware enables developers to perform “low-level hardware development, Linux kernel development, as well as in-circuit flash programming” on the Octeon and Octeon Plus processors. Abatron's BDI2000 model has long been popular among embedded Linux developers, especially for low-level bootloader, board-support, and kernel development. The company started shipping its BDI3000 debugger in January.

Compared to the earlier model, the BDI3000 supports lower target voltages, and offers a faster 10/100 Ethernet interface of up to 32Mbps, claims Abatron. It also boasts faster flash programming speeds up to 32MHz, and is said to support download speeds of up to 1.5Mbps. The BDI3000 previously supported JTAG debugging for MIPS32 processors, as well as PowerPC, ARM, and XScale chips, but the Octeon appears to be its first supported MIPS64 processor.

Octeon architecture
(Click to enlarge)

Cavium offers over 30 models of its Octeon and Octeon Plus processors, which are primarily targeted at carrier-grade networking applications. The company announced its Octeon line of processors back in 2005, starting with the four- to 16-core Octeon CN38xx line. Cavium started shipping the CN58xx line of Octeon Plus processors in early 2007, claiming the chips doubled performance while maintaining the same power budget, pin-out, and software compatibility. Since then, it has filled in the Octeon Plus line with additional mid-range models such as the CN52xx announced in February.

Octeon Plus CN58xx models are offered in four, eight, 12-, and 16-core versions, with clock speeds ranging from 600MHz to 1GHz, and power consumption ranging from 15 to 40 Watts. The top-of-the-line, 16-core CN5860 integrates hardware engines for TCP offload, compression/decompression, regex, cryptography, and packet queuing and scheduling.

Octeon and Octeon Plus are both supported with Cavium's software development kit (SDK), which is based on SMP Linux 2.6 distributions from MontaVista or Wind River. The SDK includes the GNU Toolchain, debugger tools, co-processor acceleration APIs, and reference software.

Cavium achieved its first major design win last summer when tier 1 NEP (network equipment provider) Motorola announced its ATCA-9301 blade. Now sold by Emerson Network Power as a result of its acquisition of Motorola's Embedded Communications Computing group, each of the blades can be configured with one or two CN5860 processors, for up to 32 cores per blade.

Stated Max Vock, President of Abatron, “Due to strong customer demand, we released an enhanced version of our bdiGDB-MIPS64 firmware that will enable users to target as many as sixteen (16) cnMIPS64 cores found in devices such as the CN3860 and CN5860.”


The upgraded firmware for the BDI2000 and BDI3000 probes is available now from Ultimate Solutions, which claims to be the only stocking distributor of Abatron products in the Americas. More information and links to international distributors are available from Abatron's site.

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