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Cost-Reduction Quagmire

Your design is working perfectly – on your development board.

Unfortunately, your company is probably not planning to ship FPGA development boards as part of their product. You’ll have to come up with something a little more practical and cost effective if you’re going to win “employee of the decade” when your skunk-works design ships one million units.

There is general consensus, even among ASIC suppliers, that FPGAs are the highest productivity platform for getting your design debugged and running in actual hardware. If you have an idea, and you want a hardware … Read More → "Cost-Reduction Quagmire"

Benchmarking Battlefield

In our previous article “Terminology Tango 101” we poked fun at the myriad metrics given by programmable logic companies in their publications and data sheets. While it’s fun to make fun of the confusion induced by this dizzying data, it is also interesting and useful to dig past the difficulties of agreeing on units and dimensions and to take a look at the actual processes that are used to test our tools and evaluate our architectures. While there is a good deal of obfuscation built into the … Read More → "Benchmarking Battlefield"

Overview of Memory Types and DDR Interface Design Implementation

Memory Overview

Over the past several years the electronics market and, more specifically, the memory market has undergone significant change. Prior to the electronics industry downturn in 2000, electronic system designers were less concerned with the cost of the components going into their next design, and more concerned with the raw, maximum performance they could achieve.

Today, increasing competition and decreasing profit margins have forced system designers to reduce next generation product cost while maintaining, or even increasing, system performance. One industry segment that has experienced substantial growth as a result of this transition … Read More → "Overview of Memory Types and DDR Interface Design Implementation"

High DRAMa

A decade ago, memory was not mentioned in the same breath as programmable logic. Each component type had its own role in system design, and different design team members were typically involved with their selection and use. Once FPGAs became serious system components, they began to be paired with memory in switching and network applications. During that period, however, the cost of the FPGAs (sometimes thousands of dollars per device) usually dwarfed the RAM budget. Memory was selected for its speed, and interfacing was a simple matter of putting out an address and latching in some data.

Read More → "High DRAMa"

Package Deal

Choosing an FPGA package is both simple and fun.

We have flat-pack, via-stack, timing sometimes outa’ whack; BGA, pin-array, tin-whisker sneak attack, lead-free, QFP, 12-layer PCB; cavity-up, cavity-down, ceramic, plastic, heat-sink ground; flip-chip, classic DIP, moisture-sensitive micro-chip… OK, wait. Let’s break this down.

Package selection is one of the most important and least understood aspects of part selection for most FPGA designers. While the digitally inclined among us are savvy to the subtleties of speed-grade selection and cognizant of the complexities of LUT-counting, we tend to glaze over at mere mention … Read More → "Package Deal"

Does Single-pass Physical Synthesis Work for FPGAs?

As mask prices and NRE costs rise to exorbitant levels, the ASIC route becomes increasingly unrealistic for many applications, especially in low- to medium-volume production quantities. Design starts using ASICs have plummeted from a high of over 11,000 in 1997 to below 4,000 in 2003 (Source: Gartner Dataquest). With the advent of innovative FPGA architectures incorporating embedded processors, memory blocks and DSP functions, many designers who depended on ASIC methodologies are turning to FPGAs for new generations of complex designs. The problem is that, increasingly, these designers are the same person, i.e., one day they are designing an ASIC and the next … Read More → "Does Single-pass Physical Synthesis Work for FPGAs?"

Engineers Speak Out

A few weeks ago, in our “What’s your Persona?” feature article, we discussed the fact that Xilinx is creating new divisions for DSP and embedded processing. We speculated that the idea of focusing on specific categories of new potential FPGA customers, creating groups inside the FPGA company that understand the design challenges and speak the technical jargon of each emerging subculture, would be a compelling strategy.

We then decided to test that theory by asking you to drop … Read More → "Engineers Speak Out"

Energy Efficient Application Design using FPGAs

Traditionally, FPGAs are not considered suitable for low-power application design because of higher quiescent power, significant energy dissipation during start-up, and higher dynamic power due to longer interconnects and overheads for reconfigurability. However, with advances in FPGA manufacturing technologies and growing demand for feature-rich mobile applications in both civilian and military communities FPGAs are being considered an attractive device for applications deployed in power-constrained environments. Some of the reasons for considering FPGA for energy efficient application design are:

In general, FPGAs are denser, use lower supply voltage, and provide more computation per Watt than … Read More → "Energy Efficient Application Design using FPGAs"

Wally Rhines

Wally Rhines doesn’t follow the crowd. He’s made a career of betting on the dark horse and tackling the unpopular assignment. As the semiconductor industry’s version of Warren Buffet, Rhines has consistently picked the out-of-favor or under-performing business with big turnaround potential. When Wally took his position as CEO of Mentor Graphics in 1993, he was assuming the helm of a ship that many believed was sinking fast. Mentor had launched its epic “Falcon Framework” with great fanfare, only to be besieged by unhappy customers in a market that was moving fast … Read More → "Wally Rhines"

Metal Mangling Mayhem

Two hulking masses of mechanized metal sit separated by 40 feet in a bulletproof Lexan cage lined by twelve-inch iron girders. The green light flashes and the starting buzzer sounds. Industrial electric motors on both fighting robots spin outer armored shells to rotational speeds near 1,000 RPM. The two ‘bots rush toward each other, colliding in a spectacular spray of molten metal. Broken bolts ricochet off the protective barrier.

The crowd at the 2004 Robot Fighting League ( … Read More → "Metal Mangling Mayhem"

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