Electronic Design
Corporate Processors Great For Embedded Chores

Corporate Processors Great For Embedded Chores

Intel is now delivering new processors that include vPro technology that is ideal for embedded applications in addition to their corporate targets. The Intel vPro technology provides secure, remote access independent of the operating system and applications that may be running on the system. These chips essentially have a management processor that can be accessed via the network. This includes remote video support that is normally provided only after an operating system is up and running. The technology is indispensible in enterprise servers because it allows a network manager to control the device from a remote location even before the system boots. It allows remote booting at a level below even a hypervisor.

The vPro technology can be equally useful for embedded networked products where remote management is common. Boot code can be changed remotely as well as rebooting a hung device. This can eliminate a service call providing major cost savings.

The new products span Intel's line of processors. These include the high end Xeon, a Xeon processor that targets the embedded space as well as Core i5 and Core i7 processors designed for enterprise desktops and laptops. The 32nm, 10-core/20-thread Xeon E7 series is now the high end server product. This Westmere-EX-based series is based on the current Xeon technology that does not include the AVX vector support (see Intel's AVX Scales To 1024 bit Vector Math) found in Sandy Bridge. Still, 20 threads is a lot of horsepower and the chips are likely to be the workhorse for servers for the next couple years. Each chip has four Quick Path Interconnect (QPI) ports plus a Scalable Memory Interconnect (SMI) support with up to 8 DDR3 channels. The chips use a dual, bi-directional ring interconnect for on-chip communication.

The embedded Xeon and Core i5 and i7 chips are based on Sandy Bridge with AVX support. The 3.4 GHz E3-1200 Xeon processor works with the C206 chipset (Fig. 1). It is a quad-core processor that supports the Intel HD Graphics P3000/2000. The processor (Fig. 2) supports 20 lanes PCI Express capabilities and DDR3 memory with ECC support. The Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 and Intel Intelligent Power Technology provide more performance and low power operation that is equally applicable for embedded applications. The C206 chipset adds two 6 Gbit/s SATA interfaces, four 3 Gbit/s SATA interfaces, 4 PCI slots, 14 High Speed USB 2.0 ports, 8 additional PCI Express ports, Gigabit Ethernet, high def audio and the HD Graphics support.

The Core i5 and i7 chips are already finding their way into embedded devices. The added vPro support just improves the system functionality and remote management support. The chips are pin-compatible with the standard Core i5 and i7 chips so it is an easy migration path.

Intel is clearly targeting the Core i5 and i7 at enterprise platforms. The same is true for the high end 10-core Xeon but the E3-1200 is definitely designed for embedded systems. How they all get used will be up to the inspiration of embedded designers.

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