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ARM, Altera collaborate on SoC design tools

Chris Balough, senior director of embedded processing marketing, Altera

Altera and ARM have jointly developed an embedded software development toolkit that brings adaptive debug capabilities to those designing with Altera's SoC devices, such as the Cyclone V SoC.

Called the ARM Development Studio 5 Altera Edition, the toolkit is designed to remove the debugging barrier between the integrated dual core ARM cpu subsystem in Altera SoCs and the fpga fabric.

By combining a multicore ARM debugger with the ability to adapt to the fpga logic, the toolkit provides embedded software developers with what the companies call an 'unprecedented level' of visibility and control.

Chris Balough, pictured, senior director of embedded processing marketing with Altera, said: "The collaboration has been underway for a year and it's the first time that ARM has done a vendor specific toolkit based on DS5. While the normal price for DS5 starts at $6000, the Altera version will be available for less than $1000. These are solid tools that solve a clear problem."

The move has been made in response to the growing amount of time which developers spend in debug; Balough suggested that debug now represents 70% of the design cycle for devices such as Cyclone V SoC. Debug is made harder by device complexity. "There are around 4000 wires connecting the cpu subsystem with the fpga," said Balough.

ARM's Javier Orensanz, marketing manager for the system design division, believed the two companies had 'done a good job' in integrating debug and trace interfaces. "Trace and cross triggering will be available on the boundary between the cpu and fpga," he asserted. "Customers will want to implement a lot of memory mapped peripherals in the fpga and will expect the debug tools for the cpu and fpga to work together. If we don't innovate, they will be faced with a real barrier."

He noted that debug becomes more complicated with an fpga because the hardware changes. "The work we've done means customers can export peripheral definitions and get visibility of the design loaded on the fpga."

Balough concluded: "Altera is excited about putting this tool into our customers' hands. It's the kind of tool that engineering managers will want and this aggressive approach to pricing will make sure that nobody gets left out."

Graham Pitcher

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