Posts Tagged ‘FPGA’

Altera Nios II processor gets Wind River Linux support

March 5, 2009 Comments off

Wind River recently announced the Wind River Linux support for Altera’s Nios II embedded processor.

Commenting on the Nios II processor adoptiion, Mikeson Wang, Product Marketing Manager, Asia Pacific, Altera Corp., in Hong Kong, highlighted that it has over 20,000 licensees worldwide, and is used by each one of the top 20 OEMs. The Nios II processor happens to be the industry’s #1 soft core CPU, as per Gartner Dataquest. There exists a very vibrant Nios Forum community of over 10,000 users. It is also used by developers in all Altera markets.

Wind River delivers Linux support for the Nios II processor also means that the #1 FPGA processor is now supported by best-in-class embedded Linux. Also, Nios II plus embedded Linux = BOM cost reduction.

It is a compelling alternative to discrete off-the-shelf processors. Wind River customers have access to Altera’s full spectrum of FPGA and HardCopy ASIC solutions as well.

Wang added that the Nios II is popular because of providing design flexibility. Being a custom fit solution, it is also easy to modify hardware at any time.

Why Linux + Nios II
There are several reasons. First, it provides cost reduction through integration. Users can replace the existing CPU with an FPGA running Embedded Linux. Next, it provides protection from processor obsolescence. This in turn, protects the software legacy code, which happens to be a customer’s biggest investment.

This combination also allows design flexibility. Besides providing access to open source software, the time to market gets reduced as well.

Highlighting the reasons for the Altera-Wind River partnership, he added that Wind River is the best-in-class Linux partner, with worldwide sales, support, training and service infrastructure. Wind River is also the no. 1 embedded OS supplier for the communications market.

Altera itself has a strong presence in the communications market. Also, the FPGA processor use is a growing trend in embedded applications; and Nios II is leading FPGA soft processor. There is also a significant overlap of Altera and Wind River’s customer base, such as Huawei, ZTE, Motorola, Alcatel-Lucent, etc., to name a few.

Deliveables include:
* Cyclone III FPGA Development Kit (3C120)
– DK-DEV-3C120
* Linux Hardware Reference Design (Quartus II Project)
– Current design: 125 MHz in 3C120
– Nios II performance: 150 – 300 DMIPS *

Wind River
* Wind River Linux Distribution
* Wind River Workbench for Nios II
– Workbench IDE with Nios II Support
– GNU Tool Chain, Board Support Package
* Flash files (HW & SW for 3C120 board)

The Cyclone III FPGA development kit is a complete platform for prototyping embedded systems.

In summary, the Wind River-Altera partnership helps reduce system cost and TTM, and increases system flexibility. Altera and Wind River already share several customers, and hence, this is a win-win partnership. The strategic partnership with Wind River complements Altera’s silicon, soft processor and FPGA development, besides, Wind River’s industry-leading embedded Linux distribution.

How will this partnership boost FPGA sales? According to Wang: “The current weak demand is due to recession. We see weak demand in every segment. However, we are still outperforming the market.”

Although leading-edge FPGAs are scaling to 40nm and beyond, have the tools caught up with these new and complex processes? Wang added that the process does not have any significant impact.

Programmable imperative: Changing semicon landscape!

February 14, 2009 Comments off

This post is based on a presentation recently made by Amit Dhir, Senior Director, Business Operations, Xilinx, prior to the launch of the Xilinx Virtex-6 and Spartan-6 FPGA families. Xilinx was very kind to share this with me, and I need to thank him and Neeraj Varma, Country Manager – Sales (India/ANZ) for Xilinx.

Xilinx’s next-generation FPGA families are said to enable new, targeted design platforms. Incidentally, Altera, too, decided to launch its Stratix IV GT and Arria II GX FPGAs, the same day as Xilinx.

Back to Dhir’s discussion on the programmable imperative and a changing semiconductor landscape! According to him, the key market trends changing the technology landscape include the empowered consumer, hyper-connectivity and social networking. In this scenario, time-to-market and flexibility are the key attributes for success.

Customer challenges today revolve around doing more with less, and now! Companies now need to monitor their market and competitive leadership, time-to-market and profitable growth, spiraling development cost, and risk aversion and product complexity. Business constraints are now forcing customers to reduce internal R&D investments. The graph shows the IC cost by process nodes.
Time for programmables NOW!
The time for programmables is now! It is an ideal technology to help combat customer challenges. The programmable imperative is driven by factors such as market forces, financial constraints and technology drivers. Really, it all boils down to accelerating the programmable imperative!

Looking back at the logic IC landscape, business dislocation has been underway for the incumbents. From 1998 through 2004, a significant amount of IP migrated from system OEMs to ASSP vendors, particularly in the communications market.

Even ASICs present a bleak outlook and are likely going the way of gate arrays! The graph here shows the declining ASIC market share.
The increasing development costs and reduced R&D investments by OEMs has been leading to accelerated erosion of ASIC market share going forward. In fact, the long-awaited tipping point where FPGAs replace gate arrays is upon us.

ASSP vendor challenges
Looking at ASSP vendors, those vendor in tier 1 face challenges such as business model viability and poor profitability. High risk environment leads to poor customer loyalty. The large capital outlay on fabbed is moving on to fablite and fabless. Next, market and customer consolidation means fewer deals for such vendors. Chase of >1M units means few applications and customers.

What about the tier 2 ASSP vendors challenge? They have been forced into very high volumes and compete poorly against the tier 1 vendors. Hence, profitability and business models are under severe pressure. It is to be noted that out of the 115-odd companies followed by the GSA (Global Semiconductor Alliance), 29 have market caps less than their cash.

As for the tier 3 ASSPs and startups challenge, the Round-A VC funding has dried up! Incidentally, the round-A funding (dollar amount) declined 82 percent from 2000 and 2007. Through Q308, only two chip companies received round-A funding, totaling $12 million.

Programmables next business disruption
Looking at the logic IC landscape, programmables are emerging as the next business disruption. FPGAs are no longer seen as a yearly cost burden prior to ASIC release, but more as a solution that could live in products and platforms over time.

The tipping point should happen in 2009, and programmables should reach a plateau of productivity by 2016!

Where Xilinx fits in!
Today, Xilinx sees growth opportunity ahead, and it is more of a pragmatic reality now! The company understands that new attributes are required to meet the challenges of the future. It lists three attributes to bring about this change:

* Transformation: Market led, semiconductor leader.
* Ushering in the era of targeted design platforms.
* World class, thriving third-party ecosystem.

Transformation is already underway at Xilinx, which is now becoming a market led, semiconductor business leader.

It is ushering in the era of targeted design platforms, which is enabling innovation. A view at the ASIC/ASSP class applications reveals that the positioning has become more market focused. The architecture is more toward market tuned platforms. Xilinx also focuses on low power leadership. Its design methodology has now become open, scalable and hierarchical.

Targeted design platforms also enable customers to do more, and faster, and focus on their differentiation! Xilinx also boasts a world class and thriving third-party ecosystem. The software and IP is scalable, standardized, extensible and collaborative.

Xilinx is striving to accelerate the programmable experience by giving what customers need, and when they need it! Its Virtex and Spartan silicon form the programmable foundation. It offers base targeted design platforms — devices, software, IP, boards, etc. It also offers domain specific platforms, along with domain specific IP and tools, as well as market specific platforms, which are inclusive of market specific reference designs and IP.

According to Dhir, the company is offering innovative technology to address diverse market requirements and to drive programmable logic beyond the tipping point!

Reviewing global/Indian semicon industry in 2008 — top posts

January 3, 2009 Comments off

Greetings, dear readers and friends, in the new year. May you all have all the success and prosperity in 2009!

An eventful year in semiconductors has passed by us. For me, personally, it has been a tremendous 2008, ending with Electronics Weekly of UK selecting my blog (Pradeep Chakraborty’s Blog) as the world’s best in the Electronic Hardware category.

Lot of people have asked me since, how it feels to be a world champion! Well, I do feel elated! However, one point, more of the congratulatory notes have come from overseas, than from India. Perhaps, it is an apt indicator of how semiconductors is perceived in India — though, I may be wrong.

Friends have also asked me how I’ve managed to blog on such a difficult subject sitting in India. Simply put: It has not been easy!

First, I’m just a simple person, and not some brand name. Second, my blog does not represent any large, well known media house, or a big brand semiconductor magazine. Hence, maintaining a semicon blog, with the help of contacts from all over the world has been tough, at times. Why, some folks, with whom I wished to speak with, never even responded to my emails and requests. Quite understandable!

Third, I’ve only managed to blog, when I have the time, unlike many other great bloggers who post regularly (or daily)! Fourth, there have been several instances, where my location has been my weak point. I was unable to blog on several instances simply because I had no way of reaching people whom I wished to speak with, while sitting in India. And, as I said, I did get cold snubs on several instances! 🙂 As a result, I could not present my views at specific instances, even though I dearly wanted to!

However, the unconditional and loving support and encouragement of my family, friends, well wishers, industry leaders and loyal readers such as you have helped overcome all of these deficiencies. It is only because of these people that I’ve managed to come this far! I hope each one of you continues to have faith in me. I shall try my best to provide you with the best information (hopefully) the global semiconductor industry has to offer.

To start off the new year, may I present, what I feel, are the top blog posts on semiconductors during 2008, as a review for the past year.

Being indisposed at the start of 2008, I only managed to pick up speed from April onward. As the year progressed, the Indian fab story with SemIndia started worsening, before finally disappearing, even as fabless India held on sttong, as did the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry, which incidentally, did look quite good till September last year.

I have arranged the blog posts, from January to December 2008, so they will present a better picture of how 2008 behaved! These posts are set in no particular order or preference, otherwise. Some of you may have your own favorites, so kindly let me know, in case those haven’t made the list.

JAN 2008
Power awareness critical for chip designers
LabVIEW 8.5 delivers power of multicore processors

MAR 2008
NXP India achieves RF CMOS in single chip
VLSI as a career in India
Using ‘semicon’ simulation for drug discovery

APR 2008
New camps promise exciting times ahead in memory market
Indian design services to hit $10.96bn by 2010
Staying ahead of clock a habit at Magma!

MAY 2008
Dubai — an emerging silicon oasis
Developers, go parallel, or perish, says Intel
Think AND not OR; Altera first @ 40nm FPGAs
Top 10 global semicon predictions — where are we today
Semicon to grow 12pc in 2008
India’s growing might in global semicon

JUN 2008
10-point program for Karnataka semicon policy
Has the Indian silicon wafer fab story gone astray?
Semicon half year over, what next now?
EDA as DNA of growth

JUL 2008
Semicon is no longer business as usual!
Cadence C-to-Silicon Compiler eliminates barriers to HLS adoption
Practical to take solar/PV route: Dr. Atre, Applied

AUG 2008
What India brings to the table for semicon world! And, for Japan
NAND update: Market likely to recover in H2-09
E Ink on every smart surface!
RVCE unveils Garuda super fuel-efficient car
Indian fab policy gets 12 proposals; solar dominates

SEP 2008
90pc fab investments for 300mm capacity: SEMI
Synopsys’ Dr Chi-Foon Chan on India, low power design and solar
Magma’s YieldManager could make solar ‘rock’!
Motion sensors driving MEMS growt
BV Naidu quits SemIndia; what now of Indian fab story?

OCT 2008
Top 20 global solar photovoltaic companies
IDF Taiwan: Father of the Atom an Indian!
TI Beagle Board for Indian open source developers and hobbyists
Cadence’s Virtuoso vs. Synopsys’ Galaxy Custom Designer!
Synopsys’ Galaxy Custom Designer tackles analog mixed signal (AMS) challenges
Solar, semi rocking in India; global semi recovery in 2010?
No fabs? So?? Fabless India shines brightly!!

NOV 2008
AMD’s roadmap 2009 provides lots of answers… now, to deliver!
Embedded computing — 15mn devices not so far away!
FPGAs have adopted Moore’s Law more closely!

DEC 2008
My blog is the world’s best!
Semicon outlook 2009: Global market could be down 7pc or more
Altera on FPGAs outlook for 2009
Solar sunburn likely in 2009? India, are you listening
Outlook for solar photovoltaics in 2009!

I found it difficult to select the Top 10 posts. If any one of you can draw up such a list, it’d be great!

Xilinx on microprocessor trends, solar/PV

August 13, 2008 Comments off

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.”

Introducing FPGA Central!

August 2, 2007 Comments off

All of those related to the FPGA and VLSI segments, there’s reason to rejoice. The world’s first dedicated portal on FPGAs is here!

FPGA Central is said to be central place to find complete info about FPGA vendors, products, IPs, etc.

Field programmable gate array, aka, FPGAs is a semiconductor device containing programmable logic components called ‘logic blocks’, and programmable interconnects. They are especially popular for prototyping integrated circuit designs. Once the design is set, hardwired chips are produced for faster performance. Its flexibility and low cost of implementation is the key factor for its success.

FPGA Central aims to bring all FPGA related information under one central location. A vendor neutral place to find everything about FPGAs, CPLDs, EDA Tools for FPGAs.

FPGA Central has been created to provide a central place for FPGA vendors and users to share experiences and information about FPGA design, development, verification, validation, process, tools and products.

The sites major feature includes:
* Largest FPGA vendor directory (over 450)
* Vast product directory (over 800)
* IP catalog (over 750)
* Find FPGA events around the world
* FPGA discussion forums
* Latest FPGA news and press releases
* FPGA jobs listing

A release said: “We are enhancing user experience by providing reviews and ratings of all the listing on our Web site. The users are encouraged to discuss their problems and share thoughts.” This is just the beginning! Over the next couple of months, FPGA Central plans to add more features to help users to make more informative decisions and vendors to showcase their products.

Need I say more? I was also able to post two articles and the previous blog on the ISA-VSI awards on FPGA Central. Look forward to receiving the newsletters as well. At least, I won’t need to look around all over the Web for FPGA related stuff, and believe that FPGA Central would do the job for me.

Case for low-cost FPGAs

July 2, 2007 Comments off

It is said that there is an increased adoption of programmable logic in more applications. And that, development costs of alternative technologies such as ASIC and ASSP continue to rise. Does this make a case for low-cost FPGAs? Altera seems to believe in this.

According to the company, when Altera created the low-cost FPGA market with the introduction of its Cyclone FPGAs, the consumer product market in Taiwan became a primary focus.

Its contention is worth noting. Needs of consumers change rapidly. Low-cost FPGAs are , in this scenario, said to be the best vehicle to reduce time-to-market and bring a product to market quickly, besides go in for high-volume production immediately, if required.

According to the company, changes to product specifications can occur via FPGA, even as a product is in the market. There’s probably no need to to do a redesign. Now, this would save significant time and cost, and allow market advantage.

We have just done reports on Altera, who have introduced the Arria GX family of low-cost, transceiver-based FPGAs that support PCI Express (x1 and x4), Gigabit Ethernet and Serial RapidIO standards at speeds up to 2.5Gbps.

Close by, Xilinx allows expanding FPGA development options with its ISE 9.2i design tools. This is said to have easy-to-use, built-in tools and wizards that make I/O assignment, power analysis, timing-driven design closure, and HDL simulation quick and intuitive.

The ISE 9.2i release claims to reduce memory requirements by an average of 27 percent, while providing expanded support for MS Windows Vista, XP x64, and Red Hat Enterprise WS 5.0 32-bit and 64-bit OS, respectively.

Definitely, both are worth a look, as the low-cost FPGA scenario seems to hot up!

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