Technology Library

Jan 2005
The Engineering of Supersystems


The average car today contains from 20 to 80 computers executing a couple hundred million to several billion instructions per second. Typically, these computer systems communicate through two to four networks that use various protocols with varying packet transit times, bus bandwidths, and failure tolerances.

Even an everyday mobile phone contains two to four processors executing several hundred million instructions per second (MIPS) in closely coupled or networked configurations that implement the mobile modem as software on a single digital signal processor (DSP).

The base stations controlling wireless and wireline communications systems are themselves a hierarchy of closely coupled systems with multiprocessor—typically DSP—subsystems executing billions of instructions per second. A complete base station can incorporate from five to 20 subsystems and 100 separate processors.

DESIGN CRISIS - These supersystems, incorporating possibly dozens of processors in closely coupled or networked topologies, pose a design challenge at least equal to that of designing the component systems and processors. Supersystem design and verification must address hardware complexity that increases with each successive generation of a product family, as well as embedded software content that increases exponentially with time.