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A new embedded debugger from ASSET® InterTech is the first debugger that can be embedded into Intel® x86 platforms for remote or local diagnostics. Based on ASSET’s ScanWorks® platform for embedded instruments, the debugger is inserted into the firmware of a system’s secondary service processor and can be operated remotely from anywhere and at anytime.

  The debugger, which is referred to as the ScanWorks embedded diagnostics solution, requires no external hardware since it consists of embedded intellectual property (IP). From the service processor, the debugger gains access to the board’s x86 processor by way of its debug port and asserts hardware-based run control over the system to diagnose faults and failures. Manufacturers of high-availability systems can embed the ScanWorks embedded diagnostics solution into their systems and remotely debug systems that have failed or are performing poorly.

“In addition to its traditional place in PCs and servers, x86 is rapidly proliferating into routers, wireless base stations, storage systems, military and aerospace systems, and even ultra-mobile applications. Reliability and high-availability are a big concern in all of these applications and embedded diagnostics is a critical way to achieve that,” said Alan Sguigna, vice president of sales and marketing for ASSET. “ScanWorks embedded diagnostics is able to identify the root causes of problems that often seem impossible to debug, such as Windows’ dreaded ‘blue screen’ system crashes or kernel panics in Linux.”

In addition to being operated remotely, the debugger also can be deployed in development environments before systems are delivered to the market. Its troubleshooting functionality is invaluable for diagnosing problems with the system’s device drivers, BIOS (Basic Input/Output System), operating system kernel, and catastrophic or intermittent hardware or software failures that might cause system crashes or hangs. Some of the debugger’s functions include reading and writing to all x86 registers, to memory, and to I/O interfaces; setting and retrieving breakpoints; and single-stepping through code.

One of the early adopters of ScanWorks embedded diagnostics was Cray Inc., which is integrating it into next-generation, high-availability supercomputers to ensure a high level of system reliability.

“ASSET’s ScanWorks platform provides a rich set of functionality for embedded diagnostics,” said Peg Williams, senior vice president of research and development at Cray. “ScanWorks-based solutions will enable Cray’s next-generation product development to maintain a focus on quality and reliability, while continuing to push the envelope in scalability. This is a real differentiator for Cray’s next-generation supercomputers and we believe it will give us a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”
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