Hardware and Software for Real-Time Computing

Published: 06/15/2021  

Last Updated: 06/22/2021

Intel is a leader in hardware and software systems that perform real-time application functions and respond to events within predictable and specific time constraints.

What Is Real-Time Computing?

Real-time computing refers to hardware and software systems that must operate within defined rules and deadlines. Real-time programs must guarantee a response within the deadline. To enable this, real-time solutions require a high degree of coordination, both within and across devices. Intel® Time Coordinated Computing (Intel® TCC) enabled processors deliver optimal compute and time performance for real-time applications. Pair these processors with Intel® Ethernet Controllers featuring IEEE 802.1 Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN), or with any number of other popular networking devices to power complex real-time systems.


Real-Time Concepts

The following four concepts define temporal terms and properties of a system for it to be capable of real-time computing.


Latency: The time between two events

Jitter: Latency variations over time for similar event processing 

Timeliness: The ability to produce the expected result by a deadline

Time Synchronization: The capability of agents to coordinate independent clocks and operate them in unison

The IoT technology segment requires time-related capabilities both across networks and within embedded devices. Intel is enabling real-time use cases by supporting TSN to deliver time synchronization and timeliness orders of magnitude improvement to enhance Ethernet. Intel TCC, which may be used with TSN and other network protocols, delivers time synchronization and timeliness to the software, sensors, and actuators connected to the System On Chip (SoC). The SoC is the last inch between that network interface and within the platform and system. This results in reduced jitter and improved performance for latency-sensitive applications at the network and system levels.

IoT real-time solutions focus on hard real-time use cases where a missed deadline is considered as a system failure. This system is necessary for industrial automation, robotics, automotive, medical, retail, and other areas where a capability fails if it cannot be executed within the allotted time span.

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Intel® Processors and Real-Time Computing

Intel processors are multipurpose and can serve a wide range of use cases, which include data crunching in the cloud and data centers, gaming and media PCs, office laptop, and devices at the edge.

  • More compute within the allotted time window.

    • Powerful processor capabilities allow you to run some time-constrained operations faster or run more operations in the time-constrained window.

    • Take advantage of more power to run complex algorithms and analytics at the edge, such as tuning in real-time, and machine learning.

    • Real-time capabilities enable high-performance, software-defined programmable logic controllers (PLCs).

  • Operational Technology (OT) that is more like Information Technology (IT).

    • Manage your OT like IT by enabling reliability, predictability, manageability, and accessibility.

  • Shorter time to market.

    • Take advantage of the next-generation platforms with the flexibility and scalability of Intel's real-time technologies. Reuse code between different Intel® platforms and into future platforms. Open platform ready with support for Linux. Use less dedicated computing and fewer, more powerful processors.

The next generation of Intel processors, such as Intel Atom® x6000E processors, 11th Generation Intel® Core™ processors, and Intel® Xeon® W processors, address stringent temporal real-time application requirements. You can also choose to pair these features with Intel® Ethernet Controllers featuring IEEE 802.1 time-sensitive networking (TSN) or with other popular networking devices to power complex real-time systems.


11th Generation Intel® Core™ Processors

The following SKUs are optimized for real-time featuring Intel® Time Coordinated Computing and one integrated TSN-ready Ethernet port.

Industrial Processors Recommended for Real-Time Applications

  • 11th Generation Intel® Core™ i7-1185GRE Processor
  • 11th Generation Intel® Core™ i5-1145GRE Processor
  • 11th Generation Intel® Core™ i3-1115GRE Processor

Intel® Atom® x6000E Processor Series

The following SKUs are optimized for real-time featuring Intel® Time Coordinated Computing and three integrated TSN-ready Ethernet ports.

Industrial Processors Recommended for Real-Time Applications

  • Intel® Atom® x6212RE Processor
  • Intel® Atom® x6414RE Processor
  • Intel® Atom® x6425RE Processor
  • Intel® Atom® x6427FE Processor
  • Intel® Atom® x6200FE Processor

Intel® Xeon® W-11000E Processor Series

The following SKUs are optimized for real-time featuring Intel® Time Coordinated Computing and two integrated TSN-ready Ethernet ports.

Industrial Processors Recommended for Real-Time Applications

  • Intel® Xeon® W-11865MRE/11865MLE Processor
  • Intel® Xeon® W-11555MRE/11555MLE Processor
  • Intel® Xeon® W-11155MRE/11155MLE Processor

Discrete Ethernet Products

The following Ethernet products have TSN functionality.

Intel® Time Coordinated Computing

Intel is introducing processor features that augment compute performance with Intel® Time Coordinated Computing (Intel® TCC). This makes the processors suitable for both general compute performance and in real-time scenarios.
Intel TCC helps every element in a workload to perform in a reliable and predictable manner within a specific time window. This real-time computing includes features spread across multiple Intel processor modules that:

  • Ensure that performance requirements are met in a stand-alone environment and under the presence of concurrency.
  • Enable application temporal portability across Intel® processors to ensure consistent worst-case execution time for a real-time application on different real-time systems.
  • Offer real-time performance out of the box to enabled processors, thus removing the need for developers to understand intricate low-level concepts.
  • Protect real-time applications from interference caused by the execution of other applications.

The following diagram illustrates how different tuning categories help decrease the worst-case latency. Types of tuning on the left have a more absolute impact on performance, but still the same relative impact as the types to the right.

Figure 1. Intel TCC platform tuning strategy.

Various hardware and software components enabled with Intel TCC can be used together or separately to give you the flexibility to deliver real-time performance.

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Real-Time Improvements across the Software Stack

Figure 2. Steps to optimize for real-time improvements across the software stack.

Each software component helps improve the real-time performance by addressing latency and jitter caused by various sources. 
As shown in Figure 2, the following describes the components and steps to take to optimize for real-time software stack improvements.

1. Add the board support package.

  • Satisfies cycle times (the amount of time allotted to complete a cyclic workload) in the low milliseconds range.
  • Addresses operating system latency via Yocto Project* distribution of Linux* with real-time kernel and optimized drivers.

2. Activate Intel TCC optimizations in the firmware to further enhance performance.

  • Satisfies cycle times in the hundreds of microseconds range.
  • Addresses processor latency using an Intel® TCC Mode setting that disables power management and enables Intel TCC features, system management interrupt (SMI) reductions, and other optimizations.

3. Add Intel TCC Tools to fine-tune performance.

  • Satisfies cycle times below 100 microseconds or unique demands.
  • Addresses the need to balance real-time performance, power, and general compute by the tuning of cache or I/O.

When used together or separately, these components offer flexibility in achieving a range of real-time requirements.

Intel® Time Coordinated Computing Tools (Intel® TCC Tools)

Intel is implementing more advanced-level tuning features in the processor and BIOS by introducing Intel® TCC Tools that contain APIs, utilities, sample applications, documentation, and more to help you and your customers unlock the real-time capabilities of Intel processors.



Get Intel® TCC Tools

Intel® TCC Compatibility and Integrations



  • Slim Bootloader

Operating System

  • Ubuntu 20.04 LTS
  • Yocto Project* Linux with full support for target
  • Windows® 10 – limited support, Intel TCC Tools data streams optimizer only on a target system. For more details, see Intel TCC Tools documentation.

Other Intel Tools

  • Intel® VTune™ Profiler

Note: Third-party support is subject to change according to third-party product schedules.



Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN)


Intel is working with the Avnu* Alliance, IEEE, IETF, IIC, and forums like OPC* and IEC to ensure interoperability and industry best practices for implementation in each application market.
The TSN technology provides deterministic services to Ethernet networks, like time synchronization, bounded latency, and bandwidth reservation.
It enables time-sensitive applications like industrial control and automotive and professional audio and video on Ethernet networks. The applications coexist with regular networking applications, including http, email, and video conferencing.

Core Elements

Time Synchronization: A distributed, precise sense of time between different computing systems such as sensors, actuators, and controllers.

Traffic Scheduling: Traffic management by network infrastructure based on precise timing including automation and control.

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Supported Ethernet TSN Protocols

Protocol Description
IEEE 802.1AS Specifies the generalized Precision Time Protocol (gPTP) and provides a layer-to-time synchronizing service
IEEE 802.1Qav Forwarding and queuing enhancements for time-sensitive streams, which specify the credit-based shaper
IEEE 802.1Qbv Enhancements for scheduled traffic. It specifies time-aware queue draining to schedule the transmission of frames relative to a known time scale
IEEE 802.1Qbu Frame preemption that allows a bridge port to suspend the transmission of non-time-critical frames while one or more time-critical frames are transmitted
IEEE 802.3br Interspersed Express Traffic (IET)
IEEE 802.1Qcc Stream Reservation Protocol (SRP) - Gen2 Enhancements

TSN-Based Protocols—Sharing the Wire

Intel provides value to all markets by delivering a foundation of real-time services that supports multiple protocols. Time-Sensitive Networking adds capabilities to standard networks for deterministic, synchronized delivery of data.

Figure 3. TSN can be a supporting foundation for real-time services for multiple protocols and standard networks.


Industrial communication protocols may make use of real-time capabilities on the platform and transmission sides. For example, OPC* Unified Architecture (UA) has a publish/subscribe model (PubSub) that can take advantage of TSN for deterministic communications. In conjunction with Intel hardware and PREEMPT_RT Linux, open62541.org is an open-source OPC-UA SDK to create programs that take advantage of TSN for bounded latency communications. 
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Intel® Edge Controls for Industrial (Intel® ECI)

Hardware and software in this platform integrate industrial control systems and accelerate software-defined solutions by integrating real-time compute, standards-based connectivity, safety, virtualization, and IT-like management. 
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Edge-Control Protocol Bridge

The single-host roundtrip example uses multiple instances of the Edge-Control Protocol Bridge and the OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA) plug-in to create a roundtrip communication loop and demonstrates how to configure the plug-in to take advantage of TSN.

Work with Publish/Subscribe

This example demonstrates how to publish an information model over UDP multicast using UADP encoding. 

TSN Documentation Project for Linux

Linux for real-time computing helps developers and integrators get started with multiple TSN features that are enabled on the upstream Linux ecosystem.

Time-Sensitive Networking Compatibility and Integrations

Processors and Integrated Network Devices

Discrete Network Devices

  • Intel® Ethernet Controller I210 Series
  • Intel® Ethernet Controller I225 Series
  • Intel® Cyclone® FPGA, Intel® Arria® FPGA, or Intel® MAX® FPGA with a Time-Sensitive Networking IP from an Intel partner


  • For maximum real-time performance, use firmware capable of real-time tuning

Operating System

  • Yocto Project Linux: PREEMPT_RT is available as an open-source reference implementation 
    Note: Availability varies by version and device. 
  • VxWorks* 7 for the Intel Atom x6000E Series processors and the 11th Generation Intel Core processors integrated IP
  • Zephyr* for the Intel Atom x6000E Series processors integrated IP


  • Any supporting PCI passthrough
  • For the best real-time performance, use an RT Hypervisor, such as that offered by ACRN or Real-Time Systems

Note: No actual virtualization, such as SR-IOV, is available for time-sensitive networking. Third-party support is subject to change according to third-party product schedules.


Product and Performance Information


Performance varies by use, configuration and other factors. Learn more at www.Intel.com/PerformanceIndex.