Sw Development Tools – Answers provided by Warren Kurisu, director of product management, runtime solutions, Mentor Graphics Embedded Systems Division

Pubblicato il 14 novembre 2014

EONEWS: What are your views/opinions regarding the major trends for this market (slowing, growing, booming…)?

KURISU: The nature of the embedded market is changing rapidly.  The market is being driven by some macro trends which include global business competition, rapidly changing technology, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

As global trade barriers continue to fall and access to technology becomes increasingly widespread, manufacturers of embedded devices in all markets need to respond to competitors who are delivering more feature-rich products to market faster and less expensively.  This dynamic underscores the need for manufacturers to reuse existing investments, leverage open source software, and to integrate and consolidate functions into smaller, lighter, more power-efficient and less-costly packages.

As always, technology development continues to advance at a rapid pace.  Multicore processors entered the embedded space a number of years ago, but now we are seeing the entry of very complex system-on-chip (SoC) architectures which combine Microprocessor Units (MPUs), Microcontroller Units (MCUs), GPUs, DSPs, FPGA fabrics, extensive I/O, and so on.  These heterogeneous SoCs create great potential for addressing the competitive issues brought on by global competition, but they also create new development challenges that device developers are just starting to struggle with.

Finally, the Internet of Things is driving discussions in all vertical device markets.  IoT is a broad “market” that spans from the devices that collect and consume data, though a connection into a cloud, and the value that is extracted from aggregating, analyzing and managing all the data that flows through the IoT.  Connectivity and security are key areas of focus in the IoT architecture.  Device endpoints can connect in a variety of ways to the cloud and since the value in the IoT is ultimately in the data, securing the connections, storage, and use of the data is paramount to leveraging the IoT for business success.

EONEWS: What are the key strategies adopted by your company in the short/medium period to address (or to better address) the needs of the market?

KURISU: The Mentor Embedded strategy centers on the intersection of our strengths with the opportunities created by the macro trends as outlined above.  A unique strength is Mentor’s ability to offer the market the industry’s broadest embedded portfolio available across hardware processor architectures. This portfolio includes the Yocto Project-based Mentor Embedded Linux; Android; the highly scalable and feature-rich Nucleus Real-Time Operating Syste; a very small footprint type-1 hypervisor with support for ARM TrustZone, AUTOSAR and vehicle networking for automotive electronic controller unit (ECU) applications; scalable and rich graphics support; comprehensive development and analysis tools; a relevant and broad partner ecosystem for both hardware and software support; and a global services and support team.

To leverage this unique strength, Mentor Embedded has defined several strategic pillars to address current and emerging opportunities as driven by the needs of the market.  These include:

  • Heterogeneous Systems – Mentor is leading the embedded industry to enable complex systems leveraging heterogeneous runtime environments on heterogeneous multicore SoC architectures.  This includes the runtime, tools, and services components that provide system-wide enablement for heterogeneous systems.
  • Internet of Things – The IoT world is expecting vendors to provide a portfolio of solutions that span the IoT space from the device endpoint to the cloud, supporting broad connectivity options, protocols, and hardware platforms from MCU to MPU.
  • Security – Securing data of all types is paramount in today’s connected world.  Security must span the spectrum from secure booting, validating downloaded applications and data, secure execution, and protecting data at rest, in use, and in transit.
  • Safety – Though not mentioned in the macro trends above, the industry is becoming increasingly concerned about the risk of injury or death resulting from malfunctioning software in devices.  This trend is being driven by litigation, the threat of litigation, and the costs of warranty repairs and product recalls.  Mentor is addressing safety requirements across our portfolio to fulfill the needs across market segments.
  • Rich Graphics and User Interfaces (UI) – Powerful GPUs in modern SoC architectures are enabling very rich graphical and UI capabilities.  As the world develops an expectation of Android or iPhone interactions, we see requirements for these complex interfaces appearing in all device categories including automotive In-Vehicle Infotainment, medical equipment, industrial interfaces, and military radios.  Mentor’s strategy is to provide graphics solutions that span the portfolio, enabling graphics in the embedded space from wearable devices to Automotive IVI systems and everything in between.

EONEWS: What are you doing in order to implement your strategies (partnership/agreements, new acquisitions, investments in activities like R&D, people….)?

KURISU: Mentor has been making many investments to implement the strategies.

Because heterogeneous solutions are by their nature cross-domain, we have organized internally to optimize the integration of the constituent components (runtime, tools, test, quality, etc.) and enhanced our existing processes to ensure well-defined cross domain alignment and execution.    Strategically, we also leverage open source software as much as possible, and if needed, we also create clean-room implementations of that software to span systems where Linux and proprietary environments must work seamlessly across common interfaces.

We are also making strategic bets on the ARM architecture.  As ARM-based SoCs continue to gain traction across all market segments, we are strategically aligning with all major ARM SoC suppliers to ensure complete solutions are available to the market.  As previously mentioned, one key security investment is in ARM TrustZone and support for the TEE (Trusted Execution Environment) with our hypervisor technology.

On the safety front, we have recently hired a seasoned industry veteran into the role of Chief Safety Officer to oversee the safety enablement of our portfolio.

We have also updated and enhanced our partner program to ensure partnerships bring real value to customers with strong technical and business integration; to that end, we are also partnering very closely with semiconductor market leaders to align with, and co-invest in, our heterogeneous portfolio enablement.

Mentor continues to acquire companies that are integral to enabling our strategy.  Most recently, Mentor Graphics acquired the marketing-leading XS Embedded to augment the technology stack and associated services in the automotive space.  Prior to that were key acquisitions such as Code Sourcery and select assets from MontaVista Software.

EONEWS: What are the most important applications?

KURISU: What’s important varies somewhat by market segment.  I’ll address the two endpoints of that spectrum by providing examples of a very complex application and a very minimal application.  With those two endpoints addressed, I will propose to the reader that Mentor is then able to address the application use cases that lie in between.

As a complex example, we see consolidation on powerful heterogeneous SoCs as a key general application (hence, our investment in this area).  The market desires to consolidate multiple applications on homogeneous or heterogeneous multicore processor architectures.  Customers want to keep critical domains separate from consumer and/or non-critical domains.  The Consumer domain is typically based on Linux or Android with complex UI requirements.  The critical domain might be enabled by Linux, Nucleus RTOS, a bare metal environment (no OS) or a combination of any on a multicore processor.  In these cases, the general requirement is to ensure isolation and separation of the consumer domain from the rest of the system.  A good example is an Automotive IVI system, where the industry is looking to consolidate Android or iPad-type functionality with key automotive functions such as instrumentation, lighting and other in-vehicle systems.  In some designs, the requirement calls for UIs to be composited on a single touch display.  We see the same discussions, happening in medical, industrial and military contexts.

At the other end of the spectrum, a very important emerging application is for battery powered systems perhaps requiring graphics and application separation or sandboxing so that downloaded applications cannot corrupt other applications or the system software itself.  These systems typically run on a very low-powered MCU, such as an ARM Cortex M4-based processor or an even more resource constrained environment.    Mentor’s portfolio includes the scalable, configurable, and feature-rich Nucleus RTOS which can satisfy this end of the application spectrum.

EONEWS: Which are the key factors that set your company apart from the competition?

KURISU: No doubt, the commercial embedded market is competitive and includes some very large and established companies.  That being said, the Mentor Embedded business continues to grow for a variety of factors.

Independence, not owned by a semiconductor company – In recent years there has been a trend of consolidation in the embedded industry.  We have witnessed both large and small commercial embedded players get consumed by large semiconductor manufacturers.  The impact to the market is at least two-fold.  First, in some cases the commercial embedded runtime and tools portfolio transforms to a focus on reference enablement for that semiconductor manufacturer and ceases to be a viable commercial offer.  Second, customers seek a vendor who is not overly biased to a specific semiconductor architecture (of course, if the software/semiconductor vendor is aligned with their selected processor architecture, the customer likes that).  Mentor Embedded is not owned by a semiconductor manufacturer and is therefore not biased or required to invest in line with a semiconductor parent.  This allows Mentor to freely address market needs.

Backed by Mentor Graphics Corporation – While Mentor Embedded is not owned by a semiconductor company, it is a division within Mentor Graphics Corporation, a leading EDA vendor with revenues in excess of $1.1B (USD).  As evidenced by acquisitions and growth of the Embedded Systems Division, Mentor Graphics fully supports the embedded division and is resourcing the division for leadership and success in the Embedded Market.

Broadest portfolio of runtimes and tools, including AUTOSAR – as stated before, no other embedded company offers the breadth of support of runtime and tools to meet the broad and dynamic needs in this increasingly complex industry.

Vision and Leadership – Mentor has established a leadership role in many areas including heterogeneous solutions, scalable graphics, and rich feature enablement on low-end MCUs to name a few.  The management and leadership at Mentor Embedded includes industry veterans who have decades of experience in architecting, building, and delivering to the needs of the embedded device industry.  The vision and industry-leading investments are examples of that leadership.

EONEWS: And in the middle/long term (if you had a crystal ball!)?

KURISU: I see the future largely as a continuum of the trends we are seeing today.

Competitive pressures will continue to increase, which will further compress the need for more functionality with shorter time to market and higher profits.  This will force developers to adopt pre-integrated software/hardware solutions that allow them to meet their business goals by developing and porting as little code as possible, allowing them to focus on product differentiation.

Safety and security requirements will continue to grow due to a number of factors, among them the fact that embedded devices and IoT are becoming more and more part of our lives.  Examples include mobile payment, remote patient services, home automation, and even self-driving cars.

I also see more system level workflow and development consolidation, including system design, processor and board development, cable and wire harness layout, and embedded application platforms.  Mentor’s long-standing leadership role in the EDA industry enables us to deliver this continuum of broader solutions.

Edited by the Editorial Staff

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