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In a hard real-time embedded system, the time at which a result is computed is as important as the result itself. Modern processors go to extreme lengths to ensure their function is predictable, but have abandoned predictable timing in favor of average-case performance. Real-time operating systems provide timing-aware scheduling policies, but without precise worst-case execution time bounds they cannot provide guarantees. The authors describe an alternative in this paper: A SPARC-based processor with predictable timing and instruction-set extensions that provide precise timing control. Its pipeline executes multiple, independent hardware threads to avoid costly, unpredictable bypassing, and its exposed memory hierarchy provides predictable latency.
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