The 64-bit x86 SOC from AMD

Advanced Micro Devices or AMD is offering a new Embedded, R-Series SOC processor. Targeted at a range of application markets, the System-On-Chip processor will handle industrial control and communication networking along with digital signage, high-end gaming and media storage. The new AMD device follows the Platform System Architecture, Specification 1.0, of the HSA Foundation. The Heterogeneous System Architecture offers greater efficiency in parallel processing.

In the new Embedded R-Series SOC, AMD as combined its next-generation x86 Cores called Excavator, with its third-generation GCN or Graphics Core Next architecture. According to Colin Cureton, Senior manager for embedded products in AMD, this combination offers a substantial boost in performance as compared to their previous generation.

This is evident from the presentation made by Cureton. Benchmark scores show nearly 25% increase in the performance of the CPU with about 23% increase in the graphics performance as compared to present devices. Not only this, the chip also incorporates the Southbridge chip. As this is an external chip for current devices, the new chip offers developers a footprint reduction of 30% on the board.

As the R-Series SOCs have advanced power management built into them, the feature allows a performance boost without requiring any increase of power input. Cureton explains that the BIOS and the Operating System control the thermal envelope within which the device can operate safely.

Developers can use the cTDP or configurable Thermal Design Power to specify a tradeoff between the power consumed by the chip and its performance. They can adjust the TDP anywhere between 12-35W in increments of 1W. According to Cureton, even when running at 15W, the power level of operation of previous generation chips, the R-series has greater graphics performance.

Although the device offers raw performance specifically for embedded applications, there are other features as well. Within the chip, a dedicated secure processor performs an HVB or Hardware Validated Boot. That creates a trusted boot environment for the SOC before it can start up its x86 cores. The chip can handle upcoming changes in memory technology with ECC – presently supporting either DDR3 or the DDR4 types of memory. Other industry interfaces supported include USB3.0, POIe Gen.3, SPI, SATA3 among others. As industrial embedded designs require long product lifecycles, AMD assures a 10-year supply for their R-Series SOCs with plans of extended-temperature versions.

Apart from industrial, the R-Series SOC targets other application spaces also. The chip can support two or three displays simultaneously, while providing 4K graphics and video decoding as demanded by high-end gaming machines such as those in a casino. The device can also replace FPGA and DSP combinations presently used for medical imaging and image transformations. This is possible because of the HSA architecture, which eases the task of software-defined beam forming. As its GPU allows processing of several algorithms, the x86 architecture of the R-Series is gaining in dominance in the control plane for communications as well.

The HSA architecture that the R-Series has adopted gives it the ability to use the GPU as an auxiliary compute engine for non-graphics applications also. Rather than being only a slave to the CPU, the HSA turns the GPU into another computing node, increasing the efficiency.