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28 January 2011, 09:38

NetBSD project adopts Microsoft's eMIPS port

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NetBSD Logo The NetBSD project now covers an additional processor platform. Just before Christmas, Microsoft Research published a port of NetBSD 4.0.1 for the eMIPS processor platform. Now, the NetBSD developers have adopted the port and integrated the patches provided by Microsoft into the official NetBSD source tree as a new processor platform.

The port was created while Microsoft Research was investigating Dynamic Reconfigurable Computing, which changes the range of processor commands during runtime. Microsoft's researchers chose NetBSD for their experiments and ported the system to the Xilinx ML401/2 System Development Board with Virtex-4-FPGA.

The Extensible MIPS Processor (eMIPS) is based on the concept of a classic RISC processor modelled on the MIPS R4000 ("Hard Fabric"). New commands and execution units can be added during runtime; they are processed in the "soft fabric."

The trick is, first to put the basic MIPS blocks into such extensible commands and pour them into configurable hardware, which is the task of the M2V (MIPS to Verilog) compiler, and second, to find these basic blocks in existing applications and patch the extensible commands onto them (BBTOOLS). The Microsoft researchers say the speed gains are sometimes "dramatic."

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