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Triple-core DSP runs Linux

Oct 14, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 6 views

Texas Instruments (TI) announced a triple-core digital signal processor (DSP) that can run paravirtualized Linux using VirtualLogix's VLX virtualization software. The single-die TMS320C6474 integrates three TMS320C64x+ cores running at 1GHz each, and targets DSP farms in communications infrastructure, medical imaging, military communications, and industrial vision inspection.

The triple-core C6474 is aimed at customers who have been using boards that integrate multiple DSPs in order to simultaneously process multiple channels, execute multiple applications, or accomplish other challenging concurrent computing tasks demanded of DSP farms. A version of the C647x with six cores will will be announced in 1Q 2009, TI said.

C6474 simplified function block diagram

Compared to discrete processing boards that incorporate multiple DSPs, the C6474 consumes less power, costs less, and takes up less space, TI claims. The C6474's improved power/performance ratio was made possible due to a process shrink to 65nm (down from 90nm), thus enabling a 23 x 23mm ball grid array (BGA). Further power savings are said to be gained with TI's SmartReflex technology for reducing chip-level current leakage, as well as additional hardware and software features that dynamically control voltage, frequency, and power based on device activity and other factors.

TI's earlier C6455 standalone DSPs drew 3 Watts apiece, when clocked at 1GHz. At 6 Watts, the C6474 draws twice the power, but with three cores can deliver a third more cycles. The new chip reportedly offers the equivalent DSP performance of 24,000 MMACS (16-bit) or 48,000 MMACS (8-bit) of measured performance, claims TI.

The C6474 is said to be 100 percent code-compatible with TI's single-core DSPs based on the C64x+ core, such as the TMS320C6452 or TMS320C6455. The C6474 is similarly compatible with older TMS320C64x-based devices, such as the TMS320C641x, says the company.

C6474 function block diagram
(Click to enlarge)

Additional features of the C6474 are said to include:

  • 32KB of both L1 program and L1 data memory per core
  • 3MB of total L2 memory available either as 1MB per core, or varied in a 1.5MB/1MB/0.5MB configuration
  • DDR2 memory interface running at 667MHz
  • Viterbi and Turbo accelerators
  • Serializer/deserializer (SERDES) interfaces, such as SGMII Ethernet MAC (EMAC), Antenna Interface (AIF), and Serial RapidIO (SRIO)
  • Signal chain module (called the PTH08T240F), which includes power management, data converters, amplifiers, clocks, and RF functions

VirtualLogix VLX NI for DSPs supports normal DSP/BIOS and Linux dev tools

VirtualLogix, meanwhile, announced that its VLX-NI software specifically supports the C6474, enabling the DSP to simultaneously run TI's DSP/BIOS kernel for the execution of traditional DSP tasks while also running VirtualLogix's paravirtualized Linux kernel. “Paravirtualized” means that the scheduler and drivers have been modified to address the system's hypervisor directly, rather than talking to the hardware's interrupt controller and other actual devices directly. VirtualLogix's VLX stack requires paravirtualization when used on processors without built-in virtualization hardware. VirtualLogix has long supported TI's DSPs, with both VLX-NI (network infrastructure), and VLX-DM (digital media) versions of its virtualization stack.

Dave Beal, director of product management at VirtualLogix, stated, “VLX [allows] product differentiation through the DSP/BIOS kernel and Linux software, rather than dedicated hardware components.”

In other news from VirtualLogix, the company's director of product marketing, Fadi Nasser, will discuss the “concept of Carrier Grade Virtualization (CGV)” at
the 2008 AdvancedTCA Summit, Oct. 21-23 in Santa Clara.


The TMS320C6474 will be available in the fourth quarter at a cost of $261 in 100 units, says TI. More information on the C6474 may be found here.

Developers can purchase a TI C6474 evaluation module (EVM) that includes two C6474 processors, a high-speed DSP interconnect, design files, and a JTAG header with a XDS560 emulator. The bundled Code Composer Studio (CCStudio) integrated development environment (IDE) supports Windows XP, Vista, and 2000 only.

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