Mill Computing, Inc. Forums The Mill Architecture Optimizing Mill System Design: The view from Low Earth Orbit Reply To: Optimizing Mill System Design: The view from Low Earth Orbit

Post count: 10

The embedded target environment does chunk well enough, so a handful of SoCs may cover much of it. Selling hard macros should service the gaps well enough, especially if you use standard interfaces, specifically AMBA. The key will be the timely conversion a Mill specification to a hard macro that will work on the client’s fab and process.

I’m interested in where the smallest viable Mill CPU would fit relative to existing embedded processors (especially the ARM M0-4 family), primarily on the power/performance metric. If my embedded system can get more processing for less wattage, I win. The simplification of both the power supply and thermal management can easily offset a significant cost differential for the processor. Can’t wait to see data from the first complete FPGA implementation!

Speaking of FPGAs: As a nearly incompetent FPGA designer, I have found it difficult to debug using testbench circuitry, or signal pins and a logic analyzer, or via JTAG. My preferred approach is to always include a rudimentary 8-bit processor within the FPGA to test each subsystem. Once the design works, I use the 8-bit processor for monitoring and logging. The resources used are small, the flexibility huge. And I can write 8-bit code better than I can create FPGA testbenches.

There have been design situations where I’ve had to consider offloading some processing to an FPGA or GPU, though so far I’ve always been able to squeak by via careful optimization and/or a multicore bump. I’ll be very interested to see the workloads an embedded Mill SoC can support.

When you mention the influence of the next round of funders, I presume you really mean the influence of the resulting Board of Directors. Even the greatest cash-equity deal can (and should) be sunk by poor BoD nominees or by unwarranted intrusions into the C-suite. I’ve seen the price of errors in this area. One tactic I’ve seen work is to identify BoD members and executives you’d like to have (but who won’t take your calls), then select funders who will recruit them. The same applies to lining up other partners and even early customers: Identify them in advance, then find the funders who can bring them aboard. Funders must provide far more than funding!

Another thing to be wary of is VCs or banks partnering you with other startups. It multiplies your risk rather than reducing it, since their problems become your problems, and vice-versa. The sole exception is when synergy exists in a merger, which can be a great (optimal?) way to get lots of talent in a single transaction. I once helped with the engineering side of such a merger, and it turned out well for all involved.