ARC International

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the ARC embedded processor IP technology licensed by Synopsys. For the privately held French housewares company ARC International, see Arc International (tableware).
ARC Embedded Processors
Acquired by Synopsys in 2010
Industry Digital IP
Embedded Processor Cores
DSP Cores
Headquarters Mountain View, California
Key people
Yankin Tanurhan, VP Processors, SoC, and NVM
Products Processor IP
Number of employees
110 (before acquisition)

ARC International PLC was acquired by Synopsys in 2010. ARC processors are designed for and are widely used in SoC devices for IoT, storage, digital home, mobile, and automotive applications. ARC processors have been licensed by more than 200 companies and are shipped in more than 1.5 Billion products per year.[1]

Synopsys' DesignWare ARC Processors are a family of 32-bit CPUs that SoC designers can optimize for a wide range of uses, from deeply embedded to high-performance host applications in a variety of market segments. Designers can differentiate their products by using patented configuration technology to tailor each ARC processor instance to meet specific performance, power and area requirements. The DesignWare ARC processors are also extendable, allowing designers to add their own custom instructions that can significantly increase performance or reduce power consumption.

All DesignWare ARC processors utilize a 16-/32-bit ISA that provides good performance and code density for embedded and host SoC applications. The RISC microprocessors are synthesizable and can be implemented in any foundry or process, and are supported by a complete suite of development tools.[2]

Configuration of the ARC processors, originally named the Argonaut RISC Core, happens at design time (as opposed to run time) using the ARChitect processor configurator.[3] The core was created in such a way that it is extensible. Unlike most embedded microprocessors, extra instructions, registers and functionality can be added, in a Lego-like way. Customers look at the task they want to perform, analyse the task, break down the operations, and then choose the appropriate extensions (or create their own) to create their own custom microprocessor. They might optimise for speed, energy efficiency or code density. Extensions can include for example, an MMU, a fast multiplier–accumulator, a USB Host, a viterbi path decoder, or a user's proprietary RTL functions.


  • The roots of ARC International date back to the early 1990s. The company was founded by Jez San to build upon the 3D accelerator technology previously developed for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System by a division of Argonaut Software. This forerunner to the ARC was originally called the Mario (Mathematical, Argonaut, Rotation & I/O) chip and later dubbed the Super FX. It went on to sell millions, at the time outselling ARM or any other RISC core.[4]
  • Following the success of the Super FX, its designers were split from the main company to a subsidiary called Argonaut Technology Ltd (ATL). The design was renamed to ARC and marketed as a general-purpose configurable microprocessor. Later, ATL spun off as a separate company, ARC International. In 1995 Bob Terwilliger took over as ARC's first CEO. He created the company licensing strategy, commercialized the product including the acquisition of Metaware, VAutomation and Precise Software. He raised $50 million pre-IPO and took the company public in September 2000, raising an additional $250 million.
  • 21 September 2000, ARC listed on the London Stock Exchange as ARK.[5]
  • 17 June 2002, ARC took over three companies, MetaWare, VAutomation, and Precise Software Technologies [6] but later parts were sold off to other companies.
  • April 2007, ARC acquired Teja Technologies of San Jose, California, a specialist in heterogeneous multiprocessor software.[7][8]
  • 14 June 2007, ARC acquired Tenison Design Automation of Cambridge, UK, a provider of software tools used to help develop system-on-chip (SoC) designs.[9][10]
  • 23 September 2007, ARC acquired Alarity Corporation of St. Petersburg, Russia, that specializes in codec software, firmware, and advanced multimedia architectures.[11][12][13]
  • 11 February 2008, ARC acquired Sonic Focus, a specialist developer of audio enhancement technology for digital sound.[14]
  • 29 July 2009, ARC confirmed they were in discussions with a third party regarding an offer for the company.
  • 18 August 2009, Virage Logic Announces Intent to Acquire ARC International'.[15]
  • 15 September 2009, Virage Logic Declares Offer to Acquire ARC International Unconditional in All Respects.[16]
  • 5 November 2009, Virage Logic completes acquisition of ARC International.[17]
  • 10 June 2010, Synopsys declares offer to acquire Virage Logic including ARC
  • 2 September 2010, Synopsys completes acquisition of Virage Logic[18]


Synopsys’ DesignWare ARC Processor IP includes the ARC HS, ARC EM, ARC 700 and ARC 600 families of 32-bit processor cores, as well as the ARC AS211 and AS221 audio processors and optimized software audio codecs. ARC processor cores are based on a flexible and proven industry-standard instruction set architecture (ISA) with features optimized for a broad range of embedded and deeply embedded applications. The ARC processors feature:

  • Performance-efficient designs deliver maximum performance while consuming a minimum amount of power and silicon area
  • Highly configurable processors can be performance- and power-optimized for each instance on an SoC while sharing a common programming model
  • Extensible ISA supports user-defined custom instructions, enabling integration of users’ proprietary hardware to accelerate application-specific tasks
  • Streamlined system integration through the ability to closely couple memory and directly map peripherals to the core, reduce system latency and cost

ARC HS Processors[edit]

The ARC HS Family processors can be clocked at speeds up to 2.2 GHz while consuming less than 60 uW of power on typical 28 nm processes. The family includes the HS34 Processors and HS36 Processors. The HS34 supports Close Coupled Memory (CCM) while the HS36 adds up to 64KB of instruction and data caches. The processors are designed for high performance with power efficiency (DMIPS/mW) and area efficiency (DMIPS/mm2), for embedded applications with very high speed data and signal processing requirements. The HS Processors are available in dual-core and quad-core versions for applications that require even higher performance.

ARC EM Processors[edit]

The ARC EM Family includes the ARC EM4, EM6, EM SEP and the DSP-enhanced EM5D and EM7D processors. The ARC EM4, EM5D and EM SEP processors support instruction and data CCMs and the EM6 and EM7D add instruction and data caches. The ultra-compact cores feature efficient code density, small size and very low power consumption, for power-critical and area-sensitive embedded and deeply embedded applications. The EM5D and EM7D processors are especially suited to always-on voice-activated and sensor processing applications. The dynamic power consumption of the ARC EM processors can be as low as 3 μW/MHz, and they are well-suited for wearable devices and battery-powered applications. The ARC EM SEP processors are designed for use in ISO 26262 safety-compliant automotive applications, combining an efficient and compact processor with integrated hardware safety features and an ASIL D ready certified compiler to help automotive designers to achieve ISO 26262 safety compliance. The ARC EM SEP also features detailed ISO 26262 compliant safety documentation.

Sensor IP Subsystem[edit]

The DesignWare Sensor IP Subsystem is optimized to process data from digital and analog sensors, offloading the host processor and enabling more power-efficient processing of the sensor data. The fully configurable subsystem consists of a DesignWare ARC EM4 32-bit processor, serial digital interfaces, analog-to-digital converter interfaces, hardware accelerators, a comprehensive software library of DSP functions and I/O software drivers. The DesignWare Sensor IP Subsystem provides designers with a complete and pre-verified solution that meets the requirements of a broad range of applications such as such as intelligent sensors, sensor fusion, and sensor hub increasingly prevalent in automotive, mobile, industrial and smart energy markets.

ARC 700 Processors[edit]

The ARC 700 Family includes the ARC 710D, ARC 725D and ARC 770D Processors. The processors, which can run at more than 1.2 GHz in a 28 nm process, are designed for embedded applications and tasks where high performance and low power consumption is required. The ARC 700 Family supports single-cycle CCMs for instructions and data, as well as configurable I-cache and D-cache. Optional DSP and floating point capabilities enable designers to address a wide range of signal processing requirements with a single processor, simplifying the design, lowering silicon-area and enabling faster debug of the chip. The ARC 770D features a full memory management unit (MMU) and is designed specifically to improve execution performance for embedded applications running Linux.

ARC 600 Processors[edit]

The ARC 600 Family includes the ARC 610D and ARC 625D Processors. The ARC 600 Processors target embedded applications where enhanced DSP performance with small size and low power consumption is required. The addition of support for an advanced XY memory architecture enables efficient DSP processing with fast access to algorithm coefficients stored in dedicated X and Y memories. This enables low power and efficient processing of audio data and other digital signals and information. The ARC 600 Family includes flexible memory options such as single-cycle CCMs for instructions and data, as well as configurable I-cache and D-cache. The optional floating point extension enables additional signal processing capabilities for single- and double-precision floating point calculations with minimal additional area and power consumption.

ARC AS200 Audio Processors[edit]

The ARC AS200 Family includes the AS211SFX and AS221BD Audio Processors. These processors feature powerful audio DSP capabilities and are supported with a broad portfolio of certified audio codecs and post-processing software from a range of popular standards including Dolby®, DTS®, Microsoft®, and SRS. The AS211SFX Audio Processor is designed for consumer, portable and mobile applications including portable audio players, digital cameras, media players and digital TV where lowest power and smallest area are required. The AS221BD Processor is a dual-core processor designed for high-performance, multi-channel HD audio and Blu-ray Disc™ applications.

SoundWave Audio Subsystem[edit]

The DesignWare SoundWave Audio Subsystem provides designers with a complete, pre-verified audio subsystem consisting of hardware, software and prototyping for integration into SoC designs. It consists of DesignWare 32-bit ARC audio processors, standard digital interfaces, analog audio codecs, and a complete, ready-to-use software environment that seamlessly plugs into the host application and includes a comprehensive library of software audio codecs that support the latest formats from Dolby, DTS and SRS. Supporting 2.1 to 7.1 audio streams at 24-bit precision, the SoundWave Audio Subsystem meets the demanding performance requirements of today’s audio applications such as digital TVs, set-top boxes, Blu-ray Disc, speaker bars, media players, portable audio and tablets.

Extensions and additional ARC processor options[edit]

To further optimize the processor for specific applications, a family of ARC extensions and options is available, including ARC XY Advanced DSP, ARC Floating Point, ARC Real-Time Trace and ARC Secure.[19]

Software development[edit]

Software toolchains[edit]

To accelerate the SoC development cycle, Synopsys’ ARC Processor IP is supported by a complete and integrated development tool suite, including tools for configuration, software development and simulation. This enables ARC users to efficiently build, debug, profile and optimize their embedded software applications for ARC, while the available processor models makes it possible to get an early start on software development prior to hardware availability.

The ARC MetaWare Development Toolkit contains all of the components needed to support the development, debugging and optimization of embedded applications for ARC processors. The compiler and debugger are integrated in the Eclipse-based MetaWare Integrated Development Environment (IDE), and the Toolkit also comes with a base version of the nSIM Instruction Set Simulator.

In addition, Synopsys’ DesignWare ARC processor cores are supported by the latest open-source GNU Tool Chain, including the GNU GCC Compiler, GDB Debugger, libraries and utilities.


Synopsys offers a variety of simulation products spanning automatically-generated, cycle-accurate simulators to fast, functional instruction set simulators (ISS). Synopsys’ simulation products enable software development prior to silicon being available.

The DesignWare ARC nSIM Pro Simulator is primarily used for software development and debugging. It can operate as a very fast ISS and it also has a mode that provides near cycle-accurate simulation. This mode, available for certain cores, can be used to optimize important software routines to improve efficiency.

DesignWare ARC xCAM is a 100% cycle-accurate simulator that is primarily used for hardware verification, but it can also be used to do final optimizations of critical software routines. The xCAM model is automatically generated from the processor configuration and can be used to evaluate different hardware scenarios.

Operating systems[edit]

To support applications that require fast, real-time response, Synopsys offers the MQX RTOS. MQX is a small, real-time kernel that occupies a small memory footprint and supports fast context switch times. ARC processor cores with Memory Management Units (MMUs) are supported by Linux, and Synopsys maintains and optimizes the Linux kernel to run on these ARC processor cores. The Linux kernel was originally ported to ARC processors in 2006.[20] The ARC port is part of the official release from

ARC Software Development Platforms[edit]

The DesignWare ARC AXS101 Software Development Platform is a complete, standalone platform enabling software development, code porting, software debugging and system analysis. It consists of an ARC AXC001 CPU Card mounted on an ARC Software Development Platform Mainboard. The CPU Card has an associated software package of pre-built operating systems, drivers and examples. Readily licensable DesignWare IP has been used to build the ARC Software Development Platform, giving the system a rich set of peripherals that can also be implemented in an SoC. The ARC Software Development Platform can easily be combined with the Synopsys HAPS® FPGA-Based Prototyping Solution to enable system prototyping and additional extension interfaces, such as five Digilent Pmod™ Compatible connectors, support the integration of other custom and commercially available hardware extensions.

ARC EM Starter Kit[edit]

The ARC EM Starter Kit is a low-cost, versatile solution enabling rapid software development, code porting, software debugging, and system analysis for ARC EM4 and EM6 Processors. The kit consists of a hardware platform of pre-installed FPGA images of two ARC EM4 and two ARC EM6 configurations with peripherals, and a software package that includes the MQX real-time operating system (RTOS) in binary format, peripheral drivers, and application code examples.


  1. ^ "Overcoming the power/performance paradox in processor IP". Retrieved 2014-08-13. 
  2. ^ "Accelerating Development of Performance-Efficient SoCs". Retrieved 2014-08-13. 
  3. ^ "ARChitect Processor Configurator". Retrieved 2014-03-02. 
  4. ^ Bolton, Syd. "Interview with Jez San, OBE". Armchair Empire. Archived from the original on 17 December 2007. Retrieved 28 December 2007. 
  5. ^ "ARC INTERNATIONAL Share Price Chart | ARK.L | GB0009645481 | Yahoo! Finance UK". Retrieved 2014-03-02. 
  6. ^ "ARC International Completes Integration of Three Subsidiaries Into One Company". Retrieved 2014-02-27. 
  7. ^ "ARC buys Teja to speed multicore development". DSP DesignLine. Retrieved 2014-03-02. 
  8. ^ ARC International. "ARC Acquires Teja Technologies to Create Software Platforms and Development Environments for the VRaptor Multicore Architecture". Retrieved 2014-03-02. 
  9. ^ thechilli RED - Corp. Takes: Tenison EDA acquisition by ARC – The Chilli perspective
  10. ^ "ARC buys Tenison for simulation capability". 2011-12-15. Retrieved 2014-03-02. 
  11. ^ "ARC gets Russian R&D team with Alarity". 2007-09-24. Retrieved 2014-03-02. 
  12. ^ "Asics And Gate Arrays news item relating to Arc International Ltd". 2007-09-24. Retrieved 2014-03-02. 
  13. ^ "EE Times-Asia". 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2014-03-02. 
  14. ^ "Arc International's super Sonic buy - 21 Feb 2008 - CRN". 2008-02-21. Retrieved 2014-03-02. 
  15. ^ [1]<Virage Logic Announces Intent to Acquire ARC International
  16. ^ "Virage Logic Declares Offer to Acquire ARC International". Retrieved 2014-03-02. 
  17. ^ "Virage Logic completes acquisition of ARC International". Retrieved 2014-03-02. 
  18. ^ "Synopsys completes acquisition of Virage Logic". Retrieved 2014-03-02. 
  19. ^ "DesignWare ARC Processor Portfolio". Retrieved 2014-03-02. 
  20. ^ Oral presentation from Vineet Gupta at ELC Europe 2012. with slideshow available at

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]