Imagination announced a new mid-tier I-class multi-core, multi-threaded, and multi-cluster CPU, called Warrior I6500. Imagination will target networking equipment, drones, machine learning, security, vehicles with advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) or fully autonomous vehicles, and other devices that have a need for heterogeneous computing.
"Heterogeneous Inside And Out"
The Warrior I6500 was designed from the ground up for heterogeneous computing, “inside and out,” according to Imagination. The chip scales from having up to four threads per core to working in a heterogeneous 64-chip cluster system, with each chip having up to six physical cores. This can result in a system that can support a maximum of over 1,500 “processing elements.”
Highly Configurable Clusters
Each core can now also be individually customized, so frequency, voltage, number of threads, L1 cache, or the availability of an FPU/SIMD processing unit can differ from one core to another inside a single chip.
The I6500 also supports Data ScratchPad RAM (SPRAM), up to four AXI ports for low-latency peripherals or cluster-level SPRAM, and interthread communications. According to Imagination, these features support both high-performance data processing applications and deterministic, low-latency operations.
Heterogeneous GPUs And Accelerators
Imagination is a founding member of the HSA Foundation along with AMD, ARM, Qualcomm, and others. Therefore, the I6500 chip also supports heterogeneous computing in combination with GPUs, such as Imagination’s own PowerVR series, or other ACE compatible co-processors.
The company noted that a single cluster of the the I6500 family platform can also be configured with up to eight IO coherence units (IOCUs) with no CPUs in the cluster. Custom accelerators can be connected via the IOCU ports, providing localized and concentrated resources for specific tasks or applications.
This way, you can have clusters of accelerators and clusters of CPU cores that are separated so they don’t have to compete for the same L2 cache, while still maintaining memory coherency between clusters.
Virtualization And Security
Like its predecessor, the I6400, the I6500 chip also supports real-time hardware virtualization. This means system builders can save costs with their configurations, or they can securely isolate applications from each other with Imagination’s own “OmniShield” solution.
OmniShield separates applications into up to eight security domains so that if one application or set of applications is compromised by a hack or malware, the others are protected. Imagination said that its SMT (simultaneous multi-threading) and virtualization-capable chip can enable zero context switching, so there’s little to no performance overhead.
Mobileye, the previous provider of ADAS technology for Tesla’s Autopilot system, will be one of the first customers of the I6500 chip. The company plans to use it in its next-generation EyeQ5 SoC to perform sensor fusion computation for Fully Autonomous Driving (FAD) vehicles.
“With the I6500 we are setting a new standard for scalable, heterogeneous many-core designs – and providing a highly differentiated solution for visionary companies that want to transform markets,” said Jim Nicholas, EVP MIPS Processor IP, Imagination.
“One of these visionary companies is Mobileye, which is leading the way in ADAS and autonomous driving technologies with advanced, proven technology that continually pushes the envelope of innovation,” he added.
The EyeQ5 chip will come with eight multi-threaded MIPS CPU cores that will work with 18 cores of Mobileye’s Vision Processors (VPs). Mobileye’s vision processors will offer high performance for specific vision computation with extremely low-power budgets, while Imagination’s MIPS CPUs will control the whole system.
“Imagination’s multi-threaded MIPS CPUs have helped us achieve performance increases of more than 6x with each successive generation of EyeQ SoCs,” said Elchanan Rushinek, SVP engineering, Mobileye.
“Now with the EyeQ5 we are looking at an 8x increase. The combination of Mobileye’s VPs and MIPS CPUs enables us to provide unrivalled [sic] computing power on a single processor while maintaining a very low power budget, and the hardware virtualization capability in the I6500 CPUs provides a solid foundation for an open software platform with multiple operating systems,” he noted.
The I6500 CPU is now available for licensing, with general availability in various systems expected in the first quarter of 2017.