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Advancements in SOC Design and Architecture

One of the essential technologies continuing to advance in the field of electronics is the System-on-Chip or SOC. In fact, it has become essential for computational devices that are smaller, faster, and cheaper to work while using less power.

Today, more than ever, the use of SOCs has become common in mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers, among other gadgets for daily use. Portable devices like digital or smart watches, GPS navigation devices, and netbooks also use SOCs architecture embedded into the system.

What is SOC?

As the name suggests, SOC or system on chip has all the necessary electronic circuits to cause a fully functional system on a single integrated circuit. Thus, it only needs one chip to put all the analog inputs and outputs, CPU, internal memory, I/O ports, and the added application-specific circuit blocks.

These are different from PC architecture and traditional devices in which a separate chip is used in essential functional components, as well as the CPU, GPU, and RAM.

The development of SOCs depends on which device they are designed for. SOCs on smartphones and other related devices, for instance, might use cellular networks or Wi-Fi modems.

Advancements in the Industry

The advancements of SOCs in the industry are possible with the use of architecture description languages (ADLs). This is a popular processor modeling approach used for retargetable compilation, DSP tools, and SOC design.

ArchC

  • This is an open-source mixed ADL that can generate a processor-simulator that supports multiple abstraction levels. The simulator can be cycle-accurate or instruction accurate with complete pipeline behavior.

ArchC is able to generate a simulator using SystemC which is widely getting recognition all over the modeling world.

LISA

  • This is a mixed ADL that has no problem modeling SIMD, MIMD, and VLIW architectures, as well as complex pipelines and multi-threading. LISATek is the tool suite generated from the LISA machine descriptions. It can capture the path explicitly, which is an important aspect of the LISA language.

Bluespec

  • This is a rule-based language that describes computation as a series of changes in its atomic state. This expression will considerably simplify the design, increase the efficacy of the designer, and be automatically checked by the compiler.

Bluespec does not specifically aim to design processors but it mainly simplifies complex digital circuit designs. Thus, it simplifies modeling complex processor components considerably in comparison with RTL languages.

Model Driven Architecture (MDA)

  • This uses the Unified Modeling Language (UML) to develop models regardless of the implementation platform. MDA ensures that the executable software architecture creation is driven by model formulation instead of writing the source code manually.

Recently, MDA has been useful for SOC modeling. Designers start to create a model at a high level of abstraction. Then, they transform it into models at gradually lower levels of abstraction until they attain source code.

As the processor’s architecture increases in complexity, designers utilize high-level modeling tools and language. Thus, the use of ADL, extensible architecture and UML design solutions address a class of processors and each has been optimized for that class.

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