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A Brief Look at Code Morphing Software 4.2

A Brief Look at Code Morphing Software 4.2 - PCSTATS
Abstract: One of the most intriguing aspects of a software-based processor is the notion that the underlying software can be upgraded to improve the performance of the silicon-based portion of the processor.
Filed under: CPU / Processors Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: Transmeta Aug 03 2001   Max Page  
Home > Reviews > CPU / Processors > Transmeta

A Brief Look at Code Morphing Software v4.2

One of the most intriguing aspects of a software-based processor is the notion that the underlying software can be upgraded to improve the performance of the silicon-based portion of the processor.

The advances brought forth by CMS 4.2, enabled notebooks loaded with it to outperform those with CMS4.1 by roughly 20%, while at the same time consuming even less power. Further versions of CMS are expected to drop power consumption more, while continuing to optimize overall system performance.

Currently, Transmeta programmers tell us they expect to see updated releases of CMS hit the market every six months or so. As it stands, these CMS upgrades are limited to implemented by the manufacturers only - though this may eventually change one day if consumers get their way.

Background:

The Code Morphing software Transmeta utilize with Crusoe remains in a flash ROM chip on the system board of any device using a TMxxxx class processor. As Transmeta describe; "CMS is implemented as a hybrid interpreter/translator consisting of an Interpreter that emulates x86 instructions and a Translator that compiles critical frequently used x86 instruction sequences into optimized VLIW instructions called Translations."

The translations are held in Cache and are inaccessible by the x86 code. CMS in turn uses a set of heuristics to determine if a given x86 instruction has been translated previously. If it has been, then CMS skips over to the cache and executes the existing optimized translation directly.

By inserting additional code to accumulate data on the translations CMS is able to learn the x86 code it executes to a degree, and use that information to optimize code for faster execution.

Built-in Power Management

LongRun power management enables CMS to take control of the Crusoe processor and throttle back voltage and clock frequency on the fly. The main advantage to LongRun over other methods of accomplishing similar reduction is that utility can continuously scale frequency and voltage instantaneously, depending on the demands of the host system.

Thermal management

Where current processors use thermal throttling for processor management, Crusoe applies LongRun Thermal Extensions (LTX). LTX enables Crusoe to be used in entirely passive cooling environments by so-called "expanding the thermal budget."

Finally, we are glad to see that Transmeta have laid out clear steps to upgrade CMS by tuning heuristics that control the interpret-or-translate decisions, increasing the speed of translations, optimizing length of translations, enhancing the translation cache, and by better approaches in the optimizer for example.

To demonstrate the differences between CMS 4.1 and CMS 4.2 we were shown a computer set running a TM5600 on CMS4.1, and another identical system running on CMS4.2.

Code Morphing Software v4.1 Code Morphing Software v4.2

Code Morphing Software - CMS4.1
64MB PC133 SDRAM
ATI Rage Mobility - M1 (8MB)
TM5600 Crusoe Processor
  • 667MHz @ 1.6V
  • 600MHz @ 1.5V
  • 533MHz @ 1.35V
  • 400MHz @ 1.225V
  • 300MHZ @ 1.2V
Code Morphing Software - CMS4.2
64MB PC266 DDRAM
ATI Rage Mobility - M1 (8MB)
TM5600 Crusoe Processor
  • 667MHz @ 1.5V
  • 600MHz @ 1.4V
  • 533MHz @ 1.3V
  • 400MHz @ 1.2V
  • 300MHZ @ 1.0V
The Crusoe-based demo systems looked like this. A PCI card supported the TM5600 Crusoe processor and room for two sticks of memory (not installed). The small circular heatsink was not hot at all, but slightly warm.

The original CMS version shipped out with most of the earliest Crusoe-based devices.

While it represented a very conservative stance towards electrical consumption when compared with existing technologies, it was soon updated to an even more efficient design.

CMS4.2 represents a roughly 20% increase over that of CMS4.1. From test data supplied by Transmeta, a reported increase of 21% during use of Microsoft Office can be seen, as well as during MP3 playback.

Conversely, a 22% increase can be seen during DVD playback.

With the introduction of DDR memory support and CMS4.2 slight performance gains can be had as well. If Transmeta's software engineers can keep on track, the release of CMS4.3 which is tentatively scheduled for release before 1Q'02, should improve even upon that.

In that regard the future of Transmeta's CMS looks bright, although the end user will soon look for the ability to update CMS themselves, much like many of us do with out motherboard BIOS. We can only wait and see if manufacturers will include this feature into future products so that one day we may indeed be able to upgrade our processors in a matter of moments with software.


 

Contents of Article: Transmeta

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