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Xilinx on microprocessor trends, solar/PV

August 13, 2008

This semicon blog will basically examine the key trends in microprocessors, as well as whether companies such as Xilinx — a key player in FPGAs — has any kind of role to play in the solar/PV domain.

For the record, this is the concluding part of the discussion with Vincent Ratford, Senior Vice President, Solutions Development Group, Xilinx.

First, on to solar/PV! We have been reading and hearing a lot about the rapid advances being made in solar/PV. With so much investments in solar/PV happening globally, is there a role for Xilinx to play in this segment?

Ratford said: “Perhaps! Our devices are great for prototyping new ideas and often find their way into new markets. In base stations, our devices are used to reduce the power up to 50 percent. In signal processing applications, we have a decided performance/power advantage vs. discrete signal processors. Many of these ‘Green’ applications require some form of signal and embedded processing.” Interesting, and this point needs some further examination!

Another area of main concern within the global semiconductor industry is low-power design. According to Ratford, there are a variety of ways to save system power.

He added: “We are designing features in our new products that will reduce active and standby power. We also have power-estimation and optimization tools. I would say, there is a lot more to be done in this area at all levels, software, IP and silicon.”

Ratford was however, tight-lipped about Xilinx’s product roadmap beyond the Virtex V. Obviously, we need to remain very tuned toward this!

Key microprocessor trends
Now this is another interesting area. A few weeks ago, I had received a great article from Texas Instruments, which mentioned about five key microprocessor trends today.

Microprocessors have always been among the key areas of interest for semiconductor design and development. On being quizzed on what could be the five major trends for microprocessors, Xilinx’s Ratford said: “For our embedded customers it is:

* Rising adoption of Linux.
* Increasing use of multi-core and some multi-processing.
* Accelerating trend to increase the connectivity, bandwidth and reduce the latency between the processor and the FPGA.
* Improve the OOBE (Out of the Box Experience) for non-FPGA developers.
* Reduce power.

Before signing off, my thoughts also veered toward LTE and TD-SCDMA, one 4G and the other, a 3G technology. Both these technologies have been very much in the news lately, especially, TD-SCDMA, which is currently in use at the Beijing Olympics.

As expected, Xilinx has also forayed into both LTE and TD-SCDMA spaces!

Ratford said: “Yes, we have complete reference designs for LTE and TD-SCDMA and have secured most of the prototype sockets for these air interface standards with Virtex-5. We have a very strong IP portfolio for the radio shelf and baseband and our Sytem Generator and AccelDSP tools are used extensively.”

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