In the context of the 5G and AIoT era, the Arm architecture has received more and more attention. Recently, Apple has also announced that future laptop products will be equipped with self-made Arm architecture processors, which is mainly due to the Arm architecture. Low power consumption, high performance, small size Etc.
As a local company in Shenzhen, Arm China has been operating independently since its establishment in April 2018. The difference between Arm China and Arm is that since its establishment, it has mainly focused on three production lines: Zhouyi AIPU, Xingchen processor, Shanhai platform security solutions .
Among them, Zhouyi AIPU was first released at the Wuzhen World Internet Conference in November 2018, and announced the commercial use of customer chips in April this year. This product is neither CPU nor NPU. The difference is that AIPU defines a A new set of instructions suitable for AI algorithms, more in line with the needs of AI.
A few days ago, Arm China announced another blockbuster product among the three production lines – “Xingchen” first generation product STAR-MC1 21ic China Electronics Network was invited to participate in this sharing session.
A glass of base wine: support for Armv8-M architecture
The Star Processor (STAR-MC1) is a Amou China’s self-developed embedded processor , mainly to meet the performance, power consumption, and security aspects of AIoT applications. Liu Shu, vice president of product research and development at Arm China, introduced to reporters that, as the name suggests, Xingchen means that developers hope that this product can rise up in China like Qixing, empowering the industry; in addition, MC1 represents the Micro controller series The first CPU.
From the perspective of R&D history, Arm China has upgraded the core architecture of Arm from its establishment in April 2018 to the release of the first EAC version by Xingchen in September 2019, including Armv6-M and Armv7-M, and added customization. , and these took only 17 months. On June 30 this year, STAR-MC1 released the second and final version, Armv8-M architecture supported .
The Armv8-M architecture is the latest architecture updated by Arm in the second half of last year. STAR-MC1 is the first product to implement the new architecture. At the same time, the second version of the STAR-MC1 instruction extension processor and the Arm Cambridge team were launched at the same time, fully demonstrating the security The technology and speed of the Chinese team in CPU design are the world’s leading.
In terms of performance, the 1.5 DMIPS/MHz & 4.02 Coremark/MHz This level, while inheritingDSP instruction and floating point instruction computation unit of V7 and V8 architecture these new architectural upgrades make it possible to provide higher than previous generation Arm processors 20% performance boost (under the same frequency). In addition, the power consumption and performance are also balanced.
Figure 1: STAR-MC1 supports the latest Armv8-M architecture and features the latest security technologies
A special note: Amou Chinese features
In addition to all the features of Armv8-M, it should be noted that STAR-MC1 further expands TrustZone this safety feature. Liu Shu said that in the future of intelligent IoT devices, whether it is in the field of life, industrial production, or automotive electronics, security will be the next important pain point. Develop microprocessor security technology from an integration perspective.
The TrustZone security solution can isolate the operating environment into secure and non-secure zones, the user’s sensitive running programs can be run in the safe area, while some application programs can be executed in the non-safe area. Liu Shu said that through this hardware isolation, service programs, sensitive data, and user data can be well protected. This is the consistent concept of TrustZone, and it has also been inherited from A-level processors to M-level processors. Ecological sustainability is very friendly.
It is worth mentioning that the innovation of STAR-MC1 lies in The structure of the entire cache (Cache) is introduced into the M-level processor, this feature maximizes system-level performance and efficiency. Liu Shu emphasized that many processor data needs to be read through the bus or external storage, which is a great waste of system efficiency and power consumption. In previous microprocessors, in order to save area and cost, cache technology was not used.
Figure 2: Overall features of STAR-MC1
It should be noted that STAR-MC1 implants two important features for custom expansion into the Armv8-M architecture:
1. Added coprocessor interface. Liu Shu said that many customers will make different innovations in the segmented market. For general-purpose processors, it is very important to have prominent features in the segmented market, such as adding FFT acceleration and encoder acceleration. These accelerations can be achieved through this The access to the coprocessor on the coprocessor interface is completed quickly.
2. Added user-customizable instruction set. Under the Armv8-M innovative architecture, customers can freely customize the instruction set. Through their own instruction set, on the one hand, they can solidify the characteristic operations in the CPU pipeline to provide efficient execution efficiency; Differentiation.
Figure 3: STAR-MC1 has a customizable instruction set
Liu Shu explained to reporters, The design concept of Arm China IP is based on general design, providing users and customers with definable and scalable flexibilitywhich will ultimately be reflected in the high efficiency of the market segment. The previously released Zhouyi products also have this scalable and customizable interface and extension technology.
STAR-MC1 is also the first to introduce this technology in the CPU. Through this coprocessor hardware interface, it is possible to directly access the register file inside the CPU, operate the operand of the register file and return the result to the register, so that other Arm instructions can be directly reprocessed, so that the effect will be higher than that of the coprocessor. Such customized instruction extension enables zero-delay and seamless connection between users and Arm programs. At the same time, there are reserved interfaces in the compilation tool chain to fully protect customers’ software and hardware intellectual property rights. Performance or processing performance requirements are adequately met.In terms of ecosystem, in addition to the blessing of Arm’s own tools, STAR-MC1 also Support various mainstream tool chains, compilers, operating systems, emulatorsto ensure a smooth and good experience in research and development.
Figure 4: Ecosystem support for STAR-MC1
All in One: Helping Localized Devices
Liu Shu said that at present, STAR-MC1 has been adopted by many customers and has been taped out. 30 authorized customersthe 30 authorized customers have 21 clients already have projects for integration and designIncluding 7 projects have been taped outWidely used in general MCU, interconnect chip, system control, automotive electronics, storage, positioning, sensor control and other fields.
At the media sharing meeting, there were also partners who told the story of Hexingchen processors. Wu Zhongjie, chairman and general manager of Smart Microelectronics, said that the STAR-MC1 launched by ARM China fits the company’s idea and will soon obtain a license from ARM China to start a series of work. He believes that MCU has four aspects that are particularly important: first, the reliability and security of the product itself, preventing it from being deciphered from the application level and the bottom layer; second, it has rich connectivity, that is, rich interfaces; third, It has low power consumption and extended service life; fourth, it has reliability, including electrostatic protection, latch-up effect, surge, pulse interference, etc. And these just fit with the STAR-MC1. In addition to replacing the processor in cooperation with the STAR-MC1, the overall package pins will also be increased from 20 to 100, and the frequency will be increased from 24M to 164M.
Figure 5: Smart Micro believes that the development of MCU is consistent with the characteristics of STAR-MC1
Allwinner’s latest XR806 is an IoT chip with low power consumption, high performance and security based on STAR-MC1. According to Pan Pan, vice president of R&D of Allwinner’s Analog Interconnection Division, Allwinner has been working on wireless products for many years, and the products have accumulated many years of experience around the Arm architecture.
Pan Pan emphasized that Allwinners was very interested in the introduction of this MCU core by Arm China in 2018. The main reason is that the features of the product fit the definition requirements of the XR806 product and overcome the pain points of the previous generation of products. Therefore, Allwinners communicated with Amou China immediately and became the first customer to promote productization.
STAR-MC1 has three main advantages. First, it has higher performance and energy efficiency ratio based on Armv8-M architecture; second, it has the support of Arm environment, especially the security mechanism of TrustZone; third, it has floating-point and fixed-point Computational DSP LPA unit.
Figure 6: XR806 is based on TrustZone technology
Sun Zhongliang, CEO of Huada Beidou, said at the meeting that Huada Beidou, as a domestic Beidou GNSS satellite navigation and positioning chip designer, has been continuously cooperating with Arm China, independently designed, developed and mass-produced the world’s first multi-system supporting Beidou-3 signal system. , Multi-frequency, baseband radio frequency integration, high-precision SoC chip.
Combining the latest wideband radio frequency technology, configurable baseband technology, anti-interference technology, ultra-low power consumption technology and a series of latest design technologies, it realizes multi-system, multi-frequency, high precision, anti-interference, low power consumption on one chip. A number of typical industry indicators such as power consumption, high integration and miniaturization provide essential chip-level high-precision product support for the global networking ground application of the Beidou-3 system. It can be widely used in automobile precise navigation, vehicle management, precision agriculture, intelligent logistics, intelligent driving, GIS collection, engineering surveying and mapping and other fields. At the same time, Huada Beidou also provides the Beidou open platform based on the core chip, and in an open and shared attitude, together with the R&D strength of the industry chain, jointly build China’s Beidou core and bring a more accurate Chinese core experience to global users.
As a localized processor and Arm-derived embedded processor, it can be seen that STAR-MC1 fits the needs of the market and has been recognized by many customers. In terms of authorization, which many people are worried about, Liu Shu emphasized that after technical analysis, STAR-MC1 will not be subject to relevant import and export controls.
Through new products and released products, it is not difficult to find that the future goal of ARM China is the blessing of a complete set of AIoT-side self-developed products of “Zhouyi” + “Xingchen” + “Shanhai”. We will continue to pay attention to how many related products will be mass-produced in the end.