Green Hills forms software-speedup unit

Less than a month after forming a subsidiary to sell secure operating systems to corporate users, Green Hills Software has set up a division that will perform tune-ups on customers’ code.

The software-acceleration division will have access to Green Hills’ own tools for profiling and compilation but will also use tools from other sources, such as the open-source GCC compiler, to modify source code to provide a performance boost.

Larry Lukes, vice president of sales for the software acceleration division, said: “Green Hills started out providing consulting services and produced products to make that process easier. We are going to take that experience and bring it forward in a platform-neutral way.

“We can tweak the Green Hills compiler [for better performance] but we can make software go faster with GCC as well,” Lukes added.

The division will provide a guarantee to customers that, after an initial analysis, they will obtain a speedup of a certain percentage or not have to pay for the work. “We are going to break the project down into two phases,” Lukes outlined. “There will be an investigation phase. We will analyse all the source code and, more importantly, agree with our customers: what is the definition of faster? We will agree on expected results and if we don’t meet those targets [in the second phase] then the customer doesn’t have to pay.”

Dan O’Dowd, founder and CEO of Green Hills, claimed: “There’s not a program I have ever seen that we cannot make run at least 20 per cent faster.”

“Virtually all software out there is not optimised. Very often people get it working but they are on deadline so they just ship it,” Lukes explained. “What is unique about this is the software-performance guarantee. I am not aware of anyone who will provide a guarantee.”

Lukes said not all of the issues around optimising embedded software will be about tools and techniques. Many projects now involve software provided by chipmakers and third parties. “The hard work might be getting the legal agreements done to get access to the source code.”

The division will focus on improving performance rather than power efficiency, another common headache for embedded-systems designers. Lukes claimed some power savings will come from acceleration. “The metric there is MIPS per milliwatt. If we can accelerate the software, we can improve the MIPS per milliwatt. You can do the work that a handset is supposed to do more quickly and then have it go down into a low-power state.”

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