CAST-32A presents the coordinated position of avionics certification authorities regarding Multi-Core Processors (MCPs). While today’s aerospace ecosystem could benefit from the use of MCPs, before CAST-32A was published, FAA/EASA had not yet devised a means to obtain certification credit for safety-critical software deployed to an MCP. Toward that end, the CAST-32A position paper identifies topics of concern that could impact the safety, performance, and integrity of DO-178C aviation software deployed to MCP(s). For each topic, the paper provides a rationale that explains why these topics are of concern and proposes objectives to address the concern. (CAST-32A, “Purpose”, p. 3)
Since relevant avionics software certification documents (DO-178B/C and ED-12B/C) were written before MCPs were used in civil aircraft, those certification guidelines can only address software executing on single-core hardware. The Certification Authorities Software Team (CAST) is an international team of aviation experts who clarify and harmonize the aviation development ecosystem. Their CAST-32A position is that MCPs could credibly deliver size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C) advantages and that today’s aerospace equipment suppliers are interested in using MCPs in their systems.
The consumer device world has fully embraced MCPs and many of the devices used daily by the readers of this paper contain MCPs. Some in fact predict the obsolescence of single-core processors (SCPs) altogether.
Tomorrow’s avionics will most certainly contain more sophisticated avionics, meaning greatly expanded processing power. MCPs are a major solution to this rapidly expanding need for enhanced computing architectures and processing power; therefore, the aerospace industry in general must consider how best to utilize MCPs in future designs. But how can MCP challenges be overcome?
Before describing MCP (and CAST-32A’s) topics of concern, which emphasize partitioning and its degradation by interference, first consider the background influencing the use of MCPs. Engineers and managers who already anticipate using MCPs as hardware targets for their next generation of software will benefit from considering these influences for future designs.