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xCORE-XA factor: Multicore 32bit MPU plus ARM Cortex M3

26 Sep 2014  | Clive Maxfield

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XMOS released its xCORE family of 32bit MCUs, featuring ease-of-use, low latency and timing determinism.

Unlike conventional microcontrollers, xCORE multi-core microcontrollers execute multiple real-time tasks simultaneously. Devices consist of one or more xCORE tiles, each containing up to eight logical cores. Each core can execute computational code, advanced DSP code, control software (including logic decisions and executing a state machine), or software that handles I/O.

xCORE multi-core microcontrollers include a hardware scheduler that ensures deterministic execution by implementing functions similar to those of a real-time operating system (RTOS).

Of particular interest is the fact that peripheral functions are software-defined. This means designers don't have to pick and choose among different devices to obtain the functional mix you require—you simply program the desired functionality into the device. As Duane Benson noted in his Experimenting With an XMOS Multi-Core MCU column:

Even more interesting is the fact that the peripherals come in C source code; not pre-compiled libraries. This gives the advantages associated with both pre-made and bit-banged peripherals. With the source, it's easy to tweak a peripheral if you need something a little different, rather than recreate the whole thing from the ground up.

Today, XMOS has announced the xCORE-XA (eXtended Architecture) family, which augments a standard xCORE device with an ultra-low-power 32bit ARM Cortex M3 microcontroller core along with a suite of ultra-low-power fixed-function peripherals.


Designers can use high-level software to configure a device with the exact set of interfaces and peripherals required for its target application, while at the same time re-using existing ARM binary code and taking advantage of ultra-low-energy, fixed-function peripherals.

Multiple xCORE processor cores can be used to perform real-time data-plane, control, and DSP tasks, while the ARM core can be used to run control plane software like communication protocol stacks, standard graphics libraries, and complex monitoring systems.

The combination of multiple 32bit processor cores, the ARM Cortex-M3 core, and the extensive library of xSOFTip software peripherals means that designers can effectively create a custom SoC on-the-fly.


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