Intel All-In On Embedded Linux Development
By Edward J. Correia
February 27, 2013 4:03 PM ET
Intel (NSDQ:INTC) is going all-in on embedded Linux development. The company this week released the Intel System Studio, an all-new development suite that includes profilers, debuggers, code analysis tools and optimized compilers for Linux apps destined for hardware built with Intel-based SoCs as well as the company's Atom, Core and Xeon processors. The news came at the annual Embedded World in Nuremberg, Germany.
Starting at $3,499-per-seat, the Linux-hosted toolkit is designed to accelerate development, testing and optimization of embedded and mobile-device applications, according to the company. The suite includes the Intel VTune Amplifier, JTAG Debugger, Intel Inspector and Intel C/C++ compilers, plus the GNU Debugger (GDB) along with Intel's Integrated Performance Primitives algorithmic building blocks for media and data apps and Math Kernel Library packages for performing highly vectorized and threaded linear algebra, Fast Fourier transformations and statistics functions. Also included is Intel Cilk Plus extensions for C and C++ that optimize code for multi-threaded applications and parallel systems.
[Related: Intel, SAP Make Big Data Play Behind Hadoop]
The key to its appeal for embedded systems developers -- whose power optimization and efficiency concerns are often paramount -- is Intel VTune Amplifier profiling tools. These let developers look deeply into SoC events to analyze CPU and GPU activities related to power and performance. A power profiler identifies causes of wake-up, application-triggered timers and other events that can lead to power loss. And, the performance profiler identifies hardware events with call stacks and helps find hotspots in small functions. The low-overhead tool requires no code instrumentation, and results are shown in source code or assembly language.
Click for full-sized view.
Getting even closer to the hardware are the Intel JTAG Debugger and GDB Debugger modules, which can display register descriptions of the CPU, SoC and chipsets. And a software event tracing framework also provides source-level debugging of the Linux kernel BIOS, UEFI, firmware and system drivers. The Intel Inspector module is a static and dynamic code analyzer that can pinpoint memory and threading defects; memory leaks and invalid access; and code that can result in data races and deadlock conditions. The tool also supports remote connections and debugger breakpoints, and it can break on selected errors.
Intel System Studio has been tested on Fedora versions 14 through 18, openSUSE 12.1, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and 6, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 (SP4) and 11 (SP2), and Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, 11.04, 11.10 and 12.04 LTS. For developers using the open-source Eclipse CDT (C/C++ Development Tooling), Intel says the suite's compiler, debuggers and libraries will integrate naturally, and in some cases it will install automatically. Tested target systems include Fedora 14, Wind River Linux 5, Yacoto Project 1.2 and 1.3 and other Linux distributions that support the real-time scheduler and use kernel 2.6.2 and 3.x.x (up to 3.3.x).
Intel System Studio is available now and sells for $3,499 for a single-user seat, or $5,299 per user for a floating license. In addition to support for all platforms using Intel Core i3, Core i5, Core i7 and Intel Xeon processors, the tools also support Intel Atom D2xxx, N2xxx, D5xxx, D4xx, E6xx, N4xx, N3xx, N2xx, Z5xx and CExxx series processors.
As a development tool Intel System Studo is impressive but if they really want to expand the pool of developers using these tools they should really reconsider that $3500 price. Most small development shops can't afford that. If the goal is to make Intel's CPU's and SoC's perform better than its competitors these tools should be available at a price individual programmers can afford, or perhaps free with some participation in the Intel developer community. The revenue from the toolkit will have no impact to Intel's finances but the long term impact of having efficient code for all of Intel's processors will show up in industry benchmarks and the user experience - and these do hit the bottom line.