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Extracting ISA Parity from Cloud to Edge: Why This Matters to the Ecosystem

ISA parity in the cloud and at the edge from the Armv9 architecture is transforming the software development process.
By Christopher Rumpf, Senior Director, Software and Solutions, Automotive, Arm

Walking around CES 2024 at the start of the year, it was amazing to see nearly every automotive software vendor with a cloud to edge development story. This has continued throughout 2024, with Embedded World 2024 set to showcase a wide variety of approaches that speed up the development and deployment of silicon and software for automotive and IoT applications.

This is being made possible by Arm’s ISA parity, also known as “environmental parity”, which is when the Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) used in the Cloud is exactly the same – or almost exactly the same – as what is used in the edge – on the actual device or, in the case of the automotive industry, in the vehicle.

Thanks to the success of Arm Neoverse in the cloud and new Arm Automotive Enhanced (AE) IP that will be adopted in the vehicle, there is almost 100 percent parity between cloud and edge, as both are built on the Armv9 architecture. In fact, world leading cloud platforms, including AWS, Ampere, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure and Oracle, are now making their Arm-based compute instances widely available to the automotive industry.

What advantages does ISA parity offer to software developers?

For software developers this matters because any development work that is done in the cloud on the Arm Neoverse-based AWS Graviton, for example, will have almost exactly the same parity with automotive applications and vehicles that will be built on the new Arm Cortex-A720AE. Software is built and tested in the cloud and then exactly the same binaries as a recompile are deployable at the edge in the vehicle. There are identical toolchains, with no cross compilation or different sets of drivers that slow down the development process.

CPU instruction mapping hypervisor innovation is helping to make this a reality, with this evaluating the ISA and then passing this onto the underlying CPU. This is 1000x faster than traditional binary translators. It also enables consolidated E/E architectures, which are required to keep up with the software complexity and performance needs of modern software-defined vehicles (SDVs).

How do virtual platforms enhance ISA parity?

Essential to ISA parity are the new virtual platforms and virtual prototyping that these platforms enable. Using Siemens EDA’s PAVE360 ADAS virtual reference platform as an example, the identical ISA that exists in the vehicle through the virtual prototype of Cortex-A720AE and in the cloud through the AWS Arm Neoverse-based Graviton means automotive applications can be developed in the cloud and then seamlessly deployed at the edge. Also Corellium has its own modelling technology that runs on AWS Graviton in the cloud to deliver functionally representative virtual prototypes of the new Arm AE IP, but at very high levels of performance required for advanced AI workloads and the move towards E/E consolidation. 

At the Arm booth at Embedded World, we will be showcasing the latest automotive software solution stacks on virtual platforms based on the latest Arm AE IP. These include solutions for autonomous driving, advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) and in-vehicle infotainment (IVI).

What new software development methodologies are emerging from ISA parity?

This ISA parity also means developers are more likely to embrace new software development methodologies and architectural approaches, like collaborative CI/CD methodologies. These allow developers to build, integrate, test, release and deploy software faster and at scale.

However, this requires a significant step-change for the automotive industry, which, for the past 100 years, has been built and manufactured with “waterfall” developer methodologies. These traditional approaches create friction in modern software development environments that need a more iterative and agile approach to break down the development process into smaller, more manageable increments. New development approaches allow developers to get feedback early and often, which can help to ensure that the final product meets the needs of the end-user.

Across the automotive market there is no “one size fits all” approach for software developers, so they will need to decide on the best development approach that works for them. One such approach that could be considered is the cloud native architecture vision that is being enabled by SOAFEE. This is providing the standards-based framework for enabling mixed critical workloads across the cloud and in the vehicle though ISA parity. The approach is described as “containerized application deployment”, with containers being built in the cloud that test and develop the software for automotive applications.

How can we extract maximum value from ISA parity?

The big value for ISA parity is accelerated development, which will save the automotive industry significant time and costs. There is also more performance to be extracted from software solutions, with new development processes and methodologies providing developers with more time to test and refine their solutions. This is a win-win for the automotive industry, with higher performing software solutions that are developed and deployed quicker.

Arm is the only company on the planet that can provide the necessary level of ISA parity from cloud to edge. Our CPU designs are pervasive across automotive applications and enjoying great success in the cloud. Neoverse-based cloud instances and new Arm AE IP in the vehicles brings almost 100 percent ISA parity, with this accelerating automotive development to an unprecedent scale. Partners from across Arm’s industry-leading automotive ecosystem are already taking advantage of this through developing software solutions for a variety of applications for SDVs now and in the future.

Embedded World will be showcasing some of these solutions and highlighting how Arm and our software partners are building the future of automotive computing. If you are going to Embedded World, then come to the Arm booth in Hall 4, Stand 4 – 504 and see for yourself!

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