Microchip has delivered its Harmony framework for its latest PIC32 microcontroller (see High Performance 32-bit Microcontroller Delivers 330 DMIPS) to streamline application development. The PIC32MZ family is based on the MIPS microAptiv core (see MIPS Aptiv Family Brings Consolidation And Raises Performance Bar).
I talked with Rich Hoefle, Marketing Director, MCU32 Division at Microchip Technology, about Harmony and how it is going to impact software development for their microcontrollers.
Wong: What is significant about your latest family of 32-bit PIC32 microcontrollers, which was just announced?
Hoefle: We announced a new family of 32-bit PIC32 microcontrollers called the PIC32MZ (Fig. 1). This new PIC32MZ family is our first to employ the MIPS microAptiv core, and we have achieved best-in-class performance with the highest level of integrated memory and peripherals for any PIC microcontroller. The CPU operates at 200 MHz with an industry-leading 330 DMIPS and 3.28 CoreMarks/MHz. It also provides 30% better code density than the competition. Additionally, this family has up to 2 Mbytes of flash and 512 Kbytes of RAM, with package variants as small as 9-mm by 9-mm, from 64 to 144 pins. These MCUs are also integrated with Hi-Speed USB, a 10/100 Ethernet MAC, multiple CAN modules, UARTs, and SPI, I²S and I²C™ for communications. A full-featured hardware crypto engine, along with a 12-bit ADC that provides class-leading throughput of 28 Msample/s, are significant peripherals that we included to address the increasingly complex embedded applications, while freeing the CPU to focus on other tasks.
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- MIPS Aptiv Family Brings Consolidation And Raises Performance Bar
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Wong: Tell me about the new software framework, which you also announced in support of your 32-bit MCUs?
Hoefle: Our new framework is called MPLAB Harmony, and it utilizes MPLAB X IDE development supported by Microchip. It is a comprehensive, interoperable and tested software development framework for all PIC32 microcontrollers. The framework integrates both Microchip and 3rd party middleware, drivers, peripheral libraries and real time operating systems, simplifying and accelerating the 32-bit development process. The basic framework and most of the libraries are free. Additionally, there are select tools and premium libraries that are available for purchase.
Wong: Why did you create this framework?
Hoefle: Software is occupying an increasing percentage of project development time and resource allocation. A recent embedded market survey found that >60% of respondents’ development time is spent on software. MPLAB Harmony provides pre-tested, interoperable software that shortens development time by reducing the risks associated with bugs in production.
Often, users are forced to get their embedded-development software from many sources, making both the procurement and support scattered. Microchip has always striven to provide strong technical support, training, documentation and software to our customer base, to help ease the design process. It became evident with 32-bit development that we needed to take these efforts to the next level, by offering a comprehensive package that provided a single source to the customer for purchasing, licensing, downloading and getting support for both Microchip and third party software. The Harmony framework is now available at www.microchip.com/Harmony, and that site includes the entire package that we envisioned.
Wong: What does this framework entail?
Hoefle: MPLAB Harmony (Fig. 2) takes key elements of modular and object-oriented design, adds in the flexibility to use an RTOS, and provides an environment that is easy to use, is configurable to your specific needs, and has modules that work together in complete, well, harmony. It integrates peripheral libraries, device drivers, middleware and other libraries that use clear and consistent application-programming interfaces, requiring little or no change in your code as you move from one PIC32 MCU to another.
Wong: Which third parties are included, and how are they integrated and supported?
Hoefle: Microchip has been working with industry-leading software and OS specialists to ensure their software is tested and compatible with the Harmony framework. Some of these third-party offerings are sold and licensed directly by Microchip. Others are selling Harmony-compatible software themselves. In either case, Microchip provides direct support for all third-party software that is Harmony compatible. Compatible products include those from Micrium, freeRTOS, OpenRTOS, Interniche, and wolfSSL. Additional third-party solutions will be added to these offerings in the future, including the ThreadX RTOS from Express Logic.
Wong: What does it take for a third party to be included? How do the APIs, licensing and hooks work?
Hoefle: The APIs and framework are open source. For now, interested third parties should contact microchip directly. We’ll be announcing in the coming months a more formalized process for modifying software to be Harmony compatible.