editor's blog
Subscribe Now

To be, or not to be – an FPGA?

A few years ago, we shined light on the fact that FPGAs were stealthily appearing in places where they were not announced.  Namely, both Altera and Lattice semiconductor sell devices that are ostensibly CPLDs, but whose inner workings are most certainly FPGA.  It turns out that the latest process geometries are more friendly to the FPGA architecture than to the classic CPLD architecture, and for people accustomed to using CPLDs, there is really no reason they need to know that an FPGA is hiding under the cap.  

More recently, Xilinx introduced their Zynq family of embedded processors.  Check out the marketing materials – it’s a processing subsystem with … extensibility.  The FPGA word is conspicuously absent.  Is there FPGA fabric in there?  You betcha!  Are they marketing it as an FPGA? Nope.  Don’t want to scare away the embedded folks.

Finally, there is the case of QuickLogic.  A few years ago, they started pretending to NOT be an FPGA company.  They coined the term “CSSP” for – “customer specific standard product” and they started doing the design work for their customers rather than distributing and supporting an FPGA tool chain.  Were those still FPGAs inside there?  Yep.  They were.  

However, now the case of QuickLogic has gotten even MORE interesting.  In their latest family – ArcticLink III VX – there is one important difference from ArcticLink II VX that’s completely hidden from view, and not found in any of the marketing materials.  ArcticLink III VX is – NOT an FPGA.  The FPGA fabric disappeared quietly in the night between versions of the product.  With the new smaller geometry process, it turns out that QuickLogic was able to make hard versions of everything their customers had been wanting more easily than adding antifuse FPGA fabric to the device.  As a result – the new product is probably more correctly an ASSP, but we won’t tell.  

Oh, wait – we just did.

Leave a Reply

featured blogs
Jul 17, 2018
In the first installment, I wrote about why I had to visit Japan in 1983, and the semiconductor stuff I did there. Today, it's all the other stuff. Japanese Food When I went on this first trip to Japan, Japanese food was not common in the US (and had been non-existent in...
Jul 16, 2018
Each instance of an Achronix Speedcore eFPGA in your ASIC or SoC design must be configured after the system powers up because Speedcore eFPGAs employ nonvolatile SRAM technology to store the eFPGA'€™s configuration bits. Each Speedcore instance contains its own FPGA configu...
Jul 12, 2018
A single failure of a machine due to heat can bring down an entire assembly line to halt. At the printed circuit board level, we designers need to provide the most robust solutions to keep the wheels...