By Eddie Glenn
In case you missed it, the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) was held last week in San Francisco. The Simics team was busy at IDF with multiple Simics-related events being held. At IDF, we handed out free memory sticks preinstalled with Simics, models of Intel devices, and a hands-on tutorial. This is a great way to quickly learn about Simics first hand. We had a few left over, so if you want one, email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll send one over, while supplies last.
At IDF I had the pleasure to sit down with Tian Tian, a Senior Technical Account Platform Architecture Engineer at Intel. He’s part of the Data Center and Connected Systems Group focusing for the embedded market segment. Working with customers on almost a daily basis has given Tian some great insight into what their current issues and challenges are.
Eddie: Hi Tian, describe the kind of work that you do.
Tian: I have been involved in developing network/packet processing solutions and most recently I have been working with Intel® Architecture customers and helping them design their products.
Eddie: You work with customers on almost a daily basis. What kinds of issues do you see them have with embedded systems?
Tian: With embedded computing systems, the products tend to have very unique characteristics and special requirements. They often require customized boot process, special OS and software solutions. To make things more interesting, these systems often are running mission-critical tasks non-stop. It is also common to see a rather long life cycle of the products.
Tian: Common issues that designers encounter are related to the complexity of the system and interactions of hardware and software. It is a long and rigorous process in order to get the whole system from a concept to a launched and high quality product.
Eddie: How is Intel trying to helping customers with those issues?
Tian: Intel has extensive and complete design-in services that help customers along the process and deliver winning solutions. The customers also benefit from many choices of tools and software and a strong developer community and ecosystem. We are also constantly on the lookout for up and coming new technology ingredients that can benefit our customers. Wind River Simics® is one of these technologies we think that is going to give our customers a new weapon to tackle the increasingly complicated computing paradigm.
Eddie: What are the three biggest problems that keep embedded customers from getting their products to market when they want to?
- Serial development process of hardware debug -> BIOS debug -> Software/OS development -> Test
- Dealing with a huge archive of legacy code base and trying to migrate to new architectures and adapt to new technologies
- Increasingly more and more complex computing environment (multicore, virtualization, security…)
Eddie: What exactly do you mean by the first problem? Why is this a problem for your customers?
Tian: This is associated with the dependency introduced by this serial approach. If hardware is not stable enough, it limits the scope of work BIOS team and software team can work on. The BIOS team cannot make forward progress if hardware cannot even get beyond boot vector. Software team cannot work on the new driver if BIOS is having trouble discovering and properly enabling the new device.
Eddie: How long have you been working with Simics?
Tian: I have been leading Simics activities for our next gen IA® products for over a year.
Eddie: What are your impressions of Simics?
Tian: I have first-hand experience that the tool is making a real impact and returning values to real product development. For example, with this environment, we were able to discover several issues with next-gen BIOS releases that were still under development. This avoided negative impact on project schedule and saved effort debugging on real platforms. We have seen many other examples associated with other aspects of product life cycle and witnessed benefit it brings to the table.
Eddie: How do you think Wind River Simics can help address the problems that your customers are facing?
Tian: This is a very promising technology with proven commercial success. On top of that it has professional services provided by Wind River. This is a nice combination when you have a good product combined with good service. We are very excited that our customers will be able to access this environment and adopt the technology and the methodology. They will quickly recognize the positive contribution and in the long run this will really change how project teams tackle design problems and accelerate product development and time to market.
Eddie: Referring back to when you said that one of the 3 main customer problems is the ‘Serial development process of hardware debug -> BIOS debug -> Software/OS development -> Test” issue; how do you think Simics can help address that?
Tian: With Simics, BIOS team and software team will be able to make forward progress and verify functional operations in the simulated environment even when hardware is not available or not stable enough. Test teams will be able to develop test suite to a point that it is almost ready when hardware and software become available to test engineers! This technology not only reduces the time to market, it also improves the product quality because of early discovery of issues. This will translate to faster time to revenue and greater customer satisfaction.
Eddie: Thanks Tian! We’re already looking forward to IDF 2012!