Dual-core features in a single-core footprint
In addition to providing a basis for security by separation, hardware virtualization can provide other significant benefits for MCUs. In an embedded device, hardware virtualization can be used to reduce CPU overhead, dynamically allocate CPU bandwidth per application, increase hardware utilization and provide more flexible system management.
For many industrial, connected home and connected vehicle applications, it is possible to save costs by replacing multiple CPU cores with a single core.
Dual-core MCUs are typically targeted at applications that have a mixed use case situation, Figure 4(a). One lower-performance core is targeted at lower-level functionality such as sensor control while another higher performance core manages the more complex tasks for audio processing or other multimedia applications. This type of configuration can be seen in many wearable, IoT and embedded applications.
The use of a single core allows the tasks to be managed with separate resources in both memory and IO, enabling separation of tasks without the added complexity of dual cores, Figure 4(b). The additional performance also gives more flexibility to scale to new applications without the fixed limits of the dual-core partitions. In comparison to competing dual-core embedded CPUs, a single-core MIPS M5150 offers a performance boost of up to 35%, while lowering area by as much as 10%, resulting in more efficient operation. The single virtualized core design reduces complexity, interconnect and debug time, and improves security and flexibility.
Figure 4: Dual-core features in a single core footprint
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