Real-time systems: Time to set embedded hypervisor benchmarks

Find out how multi-core chips can benefit from virtual machine managers that are resource-miserly.
By Control Engineering Staff April 10, 2008

El Dorado Hills , CA – The Embedded Microprocessor Benchmark Consortium (EEMBC) announced that it has formed a workgroup to develop a new benchmark suite that will measure the contribution of hypervisors to performance, code size, and energy consumption in a wide range of embedded systems.

A hypervisor, also known as a virtual machine (VM) manager, is a program that allows multiple operating systems or execution environments to run simultaneously on a single embedded processor. A hypervisor guarantees complete isolation between the VMs running above it, as well as between itself and those same VMs. In a multicore environment, a hypervisor can also distribute the operating systems and applications across multiple cores. The benefits of using a hypervisor as a virtualization platform include better load balancing and lower power consumption, by virtue of migrating processes dynamically to underutilized cores, and greater uptime through background firmware updates and redundant OS imaging.

“Until fairly recently, hypervisors were common only in servers,” said Markus Levy, president of EEMBC. “In embedded systems, where they are coming to be used more and more widely, hypervisors allow the use of a high-level OS interface for application programming, such as Linux or Microsoft Windows, while at the same time maintaining traditional real-time OS (RTOS) APIs. Therefore, hypervisors for embedded use must be real-time capable, as well as resource-miserly. These criteria make it important to establish industry-standard benchmarks that analyze these metrics.”

The EEMBC effort is being headed by Frank Altschuler, director of marketing for Trango Virtual Processors, a leading provider of hypervisor technology. Altschuler joined Trango from Newisys, where he was in charge of marketing for X86 scaling solutions. He has previously held marketing positions at Starcore LLC and Cirrus Logic. Prior to moving into marketing, Altschuler spent 15 years in engineering design and development in areas such as communications and electro-optics.

“Virtualization platforms such as hypervisors have enormous potential in the embedded industry,” said Altschuler. “The rapid and widespread adoption of this technology, however, will hinge on the industry’s ability to inspire confidence in its customers. The availability of a solid and widely accepted benchmark suite is a key part of this task.”

EEMBC, the Embedded Microprocessor Benchmark Consortium, develops and certifies real-world benchmarks and benchmark scores to help designers select the right embedded processors for their systems. Every processor submitted for EEMBC benchmarking is tested for parameters representing different workloads and capabilities in communications, networking, consumer, office automation, automotive/industrial, embedded Java, and network storage-related applications. EEMBC welcomes inquiries from companies that are interested in becoming a member of the EEMBC Board of Directors or its hypervisor subcommittee.

EEMBC members include: Altera, AMD, Analog Devices, ARC International, ARM, Broadcom, Cavium Networks, CEVA, Code Sourcery, Cypress Semiconductor, esmertec, Faraday, Freescale Semiconductor, Fujitsu Microelectronics, Green Hills Software, Huawei Technologies Co, IAR Systems AB, IBM, Imagination Technologies, Improv Systems, Infineon Technologies, Intel, LSI, Marvell Semiconductor, Matsushita Electric Industrial, MediaTek, Mentor Graphics, Microchip Technology, MIPS Technologies, National Instruments, NEC Electronics, Nokia, Nvidia, NXP Semiconductors, Oki Electric Industry Co, PA Semi, Qualcomm, Realtek Semiconductor, Red Hat, Renesas Technology, RMI, Sony Computer Entertainment, ST Microelectronics, Sun Microsystems, Tensilica, Texas Instruments, Toshiba, Trango Virtual Processors, VIA Technologies, and Wind River Systems.

–edited by Renee Robbins, senior editor, Control Engineering Daily News Desk