Security, MIPS VZ instructions and virtual platforms

Larry Lapides, VP of sales at Imperas, is here to tell you more about next-generation security on connected devices using MIPS CPUs. Imperas has recently joined the Security Working Group set up by the prpl Foundation and is working with Imagination and other prpl members on some exciting projects regarding security.

One of the hottest topics in embedded systems today is security and safety. And one of the ways to address security and safety concerns is by using hypervisors and/or secure operating systems, and by specifically adding security into embedded software. To facilitate these techniques, Imagination Technologies added in hardware virtualization instructions – the VZ extensions – to the MIPS Warrior CPUs, including even the microcontroller-targeted M5150 processor.

MIPS_M-class_M5151_block-diagram_Feb14The new MIPS M5150 MCU supports advanced security and MIPS VZ secure virtualization

Using virtual platforms to develop secure virtualization

So how do Imagination’s partners develop the software which takes advantage of these advanced features? Virtual platforms provide a straightforward and accessible answer. The models of the MIPS CPUs available either from Imperas or from Imagination as part of the IASim product (which is an OEM version of the Imperas simulation technology) already have the MIPS VZ instructions included.

Kyma Systems started using the Imperas M*SDK product over one year ago for porting and further development of the KVM hypervisor, and are now working on the Fiasco hypervisor for MIPS CPUs. Seltech recently announced its FEXEROX hypervisor for MIPS M-class processors, and used IASim for initial development. And Imagination, at CES, Embedded World and MWC, has been showing a demonstration of a Trusted Execution Environment built by Elliptic Technologies, developed using the Imperas M*SDK product.

One other effort which should be mentioned is the recently announced Security Working Group from the prpl Foundation. Both Imagination and Imperas are participating in this effort.

What’s so great about virtual platforms? First, as seen above, virtual platforms can be available long before silicon. This can accelerate the software development process by months; in the case of the KVM hypervisor, the schedule acceleration was over 12 months.

Secondly, virtual platform tools, specifically Imperas’ M*SDK, have analytical capabilities built in that enable greater introspection into the software being developed. For example, users can trace just the MIPS VZ instructions using M*SDK. Or users can trace operating systems tasks or visually examine scheduler events like process creation/deletion and context switching via waveform analysis using M*SDK.

GTKWave - Imperas - virtual platformsTracing waveforms using Imperas tools and virtual platforms

Certainly the advantages of virtual platforms extend beyond just accelerating software development, porting and bring-up. However, with security such a hot issue for embedded systems, this is a technology that can easily be deployed for software development and test teams, even before the silicon is available.

For more information about Imperas and our solutions for MIPS CPUs, you can contact us at info [at] Thank you for your continued support of Imperas and Open Virtual Platforms!

If you’d like to keep in touch with Imagination, follow us on Twitter (@ImaginationPR, @MIPSguru, @MIPSdev) for more news and announcements from our ever-growing ecosystem of hardware and software partners.

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