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One size fits all?

As the ARM architecture becomes more popular, will one size of BSP fit all?

The embedded software domain has always exhibited less homogeneity than the enterprise world; the array of processor architectures and operating systems puts the ‘Wintel’ platform firmly in the shade.
Choice, however, isn’t always a good thing, particularly when it takes incrementally more time and effort to assess the commonalities and differences between architectures. In the enterprise domain, application developers have a certain level of freedom here, as they needn’t worry too much about the target architecture. Arguably, a similar trend is emerging in the embedded domain, as the ARM architecture continues its penetration.
Unlike the x86, ARM sports a range of architectures which, although largely binary compatible, are intended to address differing embedded systems needs. Is it possible that the dominance of ARM can result in a reduction – or at least slow down – in the rising level of complexity when developing embedded software applications?

Showing support
For some time, the embedded industry has groomed the board support package (BSP) in order to provide greater accessibility to new platforms. Because they are closely linked to the operating system, the processor architecture and its integrated and external peripherals, BSPs are more numerous than their constituent parts. One important element of this equation is the processor, which arguably is likely to be ARM based.
As the term BSP has no real heredity, it can be applied liberally. Alan Harry, chief executive of embedded tools developer Crossware, pointed out: “It’s clearly a software package that configures a particular microcontroller or microprocessor and possibly a particular board that uses that chip. Beyond that, it seems to be a name given to something that is otherwise vague.”
A BSP will normally provide, at minimum, the device drivers needed to run a processor, while additional features may vary. IAR System’s tools and applications manager Mike Skrtic explained: “In particular, device drivers are an absolutely essential component of a BSP; without drivers for the peripherals, the board could not be used to its full potential.”

Philip Ling

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16044\One Size Fits All.pdf

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