Multicore for Military

Multicore Processing Feeds Military Imaging Needs, COTS Journal


Matt Stevenson, Principal Architect, WIN Enterprises -- September 2007


With the massive data sharing that will be made possible by the DoD's planned Global Information Grid (GIG), field and strategic commanders will be able to obtain real-time situational awareness data for tactical planning. The build-out of this grid, combined with advances in situational awareness technology, has driven a demand for server-class systems capable of high-end graphics and imaging processing and display. A dual quad-core, small form-factor board (SFFB), I/O-rich technology has been developed that enables very high performance and functionality in a small space, targeted principally to military imaging, as well as to government agencies for intelligence work. This technology can be used as a design platform in situational awareness applications. Designers of military graphics and imaging subsystems need not only high-speed video, along with storage for the video data and for records purposes, but also high-speed data communication connections in order to share this field data with command centers or bases. Video streams coming in to the server from mobile devices used by individual warfighters on foot, in tanks or in other military vehicles must be stored, analyzed and/or sent out for further analysis to other locations.
















In this Shadow UAV Ground Control Station, manned by soldiers of D Troop, 1-14 CAV, the soldier on the left controls the aircraft while the soldier on the right controls the payload.

Graphics and Imaging System Design Challenges For example, the soldier in charge of the server-class imaging system carried in a ground vehicle may not be an expert in the specific type of data analysis needed for tactical awareness in an urban warfare scenario, and must therefore send that data elsewhere to be analyzed. Consequently, the system must be capable of handling large amounts of incoming and outgoing data, as well as processing large amounts of data locally for real-time response. Both high performance and a small, low-power form-factor are highly desirable in the SBCs that serve as a design platform on which these server-class systems are based. So is enough bandwidth to enhance the processing of complex image data from multiple sources, such as UAVs sending terrain overlay system data and live video, along with high-quality audio and a wide range of I/O choices to handle those multiple data streams. Since some data needs to be stored locally, large amounts of RAM and storage capacity are required. To accomplish all of this, what's needed in an SBC design platform is multi-processing, along with the ability to handle large amounts of memory, and support for high-speed networking to send pertinent data out to other groups. In addition, an integrated storage controller, such as SAS, is desirable for high-density local storage arrays. In order to get all of this processing muscle, memory and I/O in a small space without consuming too much power, multicore processing combined with careful architecting of the SBC and the I/O control are required.



















A new generation of small form-factor, quad-core CPU motherboards enables situational awareness from field to base station and beyond. Extremely high throughput and processing power means vital intelligence is available to the appropriate decision point when it's needed most.

Quad-Core and Eight-Core Processing Symmetric multi-processing (SMP) is already used for a number of multi-tasking applications in compute-dense military systems. The architecture is well suited for running multiple, concurrent tasks, such as processing different types of incoming data streams. Because of shared memory functions, combining SMP with multicore processing increases performance without consuming the large amounts of power of an equal number of separate processors. Since performance per watt is a key factor in military designs, multicore processing is being increasingly used to improve the speed and overall performance of many electronic defense systems, including SIGINT, radar, sonar and situational awareness. Shifting from dual-core to quad-core processors increases the number of threads available for multitasking and allows a server-class system to run more applications with a smaller footprint. A dual quad-core processor platform increases the number of threads to eight. The dual, quad-core SFFB technology uses Intel's 32-/64-bit Quad-Core Xeon 5300 (Clovertown) CPUs. These are the industry's first quad-core processors for standard, high-volume, two-processor (i.e., twin-socketed) server platforms. At 3 GHz per processor, their performance is up to 50% better than the company's Dual-Core Xeon 5100. In the low-voltage L5320 and L5310 versions, each core burns only 12.5 watts of power. The large, 8 MByte L2 cache for each quad-core processor enables very fast data transfers between processor cores. The Intel 5300 series brings several benefits to high-end graphics and image processing. The high-speed, dual quad-core processors excel at the heavy number-crunching and data processing that are necessary for processing the multi-threaded video, imaging and location information for situational awareness applications. Because of the dual quad-core processors’ floating-point unit and the shared memory between each set of two execution cores, each execution core is faster than previous generations of high-performance single-core processors. Eight Processing Threads The dual, quad-core SFFB technology is implemented in a PICMG 1.3 SBC. This SBC is one of the first CPU boards for embedded OEMs that takes advantage of dual, quad-core CPUs. Each processor has an independent, 1066/1333 MHz system bus. The twin-socketed board supports either Intel's Dual-Core 5100 processors or Quad-Core 5300 processors, and works exclusively with the low-power versions of these CPUs. The Intel chipset provides increased graphic performance, reduced power consumption, platform reliability and system manageability. The South Bridge chip, the 6321ESB I/O Hub Controller, enables particularly feature-rich I/O, including PCI Express (PCIe) and PCI-X card edge connectors, multiple USB ports, and interfaces for AC97 audio and IDE hard drive storage. Additional I/O includes dual Gigabit Ethernet, six SATA ports with RAID, a PATA port and serial interfaces. The SBC is I/O-rich. PCI-X enables connections to high-end storage and expansion of storage or high-end communications equipment, while 20 lanes of external PCI Express enable the use of commercially available plug-in cards such as dual graphics cards or high-bandwidth video capture cards. PCIe also allows connections to mass storage and high-speed networking devices. WIN Enterprises engineered this SBC, the MB-60630, so that even more I/O could be integrated in the small, PICMG 1.3 form-factor. Additional internal lanes of PCIe have been utilized to integrate an ATI X300 Radeon Mobility graphics controller with 64 Mbytes of video RAM, a FireWire chip on a standard PCI bus and an eight-port, 3 Gbit/s LSI 1068 Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) controller.
















One of the first CPU boards for embedded OEMs to take advantage of quad-core CPUs, the WIN Enterprises MB-60630 PICMG 1.3 SBC is based on Intel's dual Quad-Core 5300 Xeon CPUs. The I/O-rich board includes PCI-X, 20 external lanes of PCI Express, an integrated ATI X300 graphics controller with 64 Mbytes of video RAM, an integrated FireWire chip and an integrated eight-port, 3 Gbit/s LSI 1068 SAS controller.


Advanced Video Support Most server-class machines either do not provide for video or only accommodate the lowest of low-end graphics cards. In this SBC, external DVI can be connected to the integrated ATI X300 graphics controller. Alternatively, graphics support is provided for VGA and LVDS, for integrated LCDs. Users can thus natively plug a display into the same box that houses the processor board, instead of being required to use a bulky external display with its own dedicated graphics display architecture. An ATI X300 graphics card is a mid-range card suitable for most video applications, except for those requiring large amounts of high-end 3D rendering. Since FireWire is the native interface in much of the video world, the integrated FireWire chip eliminates the need to configure a separate card for high-performance video, which is not normally the case in PICMG 1.3 form-factor devices. The SBC provides up to 48 Gbytes of RAM in six FB-DIMM slots that reside on a plug-in daughter card. Although the Intel 5000P North Bridge chip allows the option of plugging in up to eight of these memory modules, other PICMG 1.3 form-factor implementations have to date only achieved a maximum of four. Most Intel 5000P series-based PICMG 1.3 CPU cards consist of only a plain motherboard. With careful architecting, the MB-60630 dual, quad-core SFFB technology integrates plenty of memory, storage connectivity, native high-performance video capability, communications connectivity and high-bandwidth processing power to meet the needs of graphics and image processing for situational awareness applications.

Visit MB-60630 Product Page.

WIN Enterprises North Andover, MA. (978) 688-2000 [] Email:

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