Intl has laid claim that efforts by system-on-chip (SoC) sellers to optimize Google’s Android mobile operating system for multicore processors are insufficient.
The American chip maker and world’s largest semiconductor provider offers its single-core Medfield Atom processor at a period when nearly all major ARM SoC vendors are riveting campaigns on dual-core and quad-core processors. However, Intel claims that chip makers must exert more on Android optimization for multicore processors to use multiple cores effectively.
While Medfield Atom processors come with pseudo-multithreading due to the company’s Hyper-Threading Technology (HTT), Intel has yet to defend Medfield versus doubters on how the chip can rival quad-core processors from ARM chip designers, which include Nvidia, Qualcomm and Samsung.
Mike Bell, GM of Intel’s Mobile and Communications Group, disputed that Android’s thread scheduler plainly is unprepared for multicore processors.
“If you are in a non-power constrained case, I think multiple cores make a lot of sense because you can run the cores full out, you can actually heavily load them and/or if the operating system has a good thread scheduler. A lot of stuff we are dealing with, thread scheduling and thread affinity, isn’t there yet and on top of that, largely when the operating system goes to do a single task, a lot of other stuff stops. So as we move to multiple cores, we’re actually putting a lot of investment into software to fix the scheduler and fix the threading so if we do multi-core products it actually takes advantage of it.”
The Intel GM also claimed that the company’s in-house tests revealed multicore implementations run slower than single-core counterparts, however, he did not point out any particular chip.
“If you take a look a lot of handsets on the market, when you turn on the second core or having the second core there [on die], the [current] leakage is high enough and their power threshold is low enough because of the size of the case that it isn’t entirely clear you get much of a benefit to turning the second core on. We ran our own numbers and [in] some of the use cases we’ve seen, having a second core is actually a detriment, because of the way some of the people have not implemented their thread scheduling.”
Bell added that he isn’t sure what advantage multicore chip designers get from embedding multiple cores on a single die.
“I’ve taken a look at the multiple core implementations in the market, and frankly, in a thermal and/or power constrained environment – what has been implemented – it isn’t obvious to me you really get the advantage for the size and the cost of what’s going into that part.”
Finally, Bell claimed that in reality Android has no use for multicore processors and that other chip makers should collaborate with Intel to sort out how to fix this.
“The way it’s implemented right now, Android does not make as effective use of multiple cores as it could, and I think – frankly – some of this work could be done by the vendors who create the SoCs, but they just haven’t bothered to do it.”
Bell finished his long statement with a parting shot at its rivals, saying that other chip vendors’ inadequate work on Android multi-threading only hampers the mobile OS’s optimum performance level.
“Right now the lack of software effort by some of the folks who have done their hardware implementation is a bigger disadvantage than anything else.”
Bell did not disclose a specific date as to when Intel will release its multicore Atom processors, but with his statement on Intel’s work on Android thread scheduling, its arrival may be sooner than we think.