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Mad MACs

Maybe you saw them in science fiction movies when you were a kid. Possibly your Hot Wheels toy car collection contained a few as well. You may have even drawn your own on your school book covers. They looked like normal race cars, but a single engine just would not do. Sometimes four, six, or eight huge power plants graced the foredeck, each with eight big straight pipes sticking out the sides like stocky legs on some steel-bodied spider, complete with a Roots blower abdomen and air scoop head. You were never able to understand quite how … Read More → "Mad MACs"

Wim Roelandts

Programmable logic is spreading like a prairie fire across the landscape of systems design. For the past two decades, Xilinx technology has been at the heart of that inferno. From the first, modest FPGAs that integrated discrete logic components to today’s programmable system-on-chip devices, Xilinx has played a major role in the advancement of programmable systems technologies. Wim Roelandts knows that innovation is the fuel that feeds the flames of FPGA’s frantic advance. As CEO of the world’s largest supplier of programmable logic products, his priority is maintaining an environment at Xilinx that encourages and fosters … Read More → "Wim Roelandts"

Destination DSP

As FPGAs have earned greater acceptance as the platform of choice for high-performance digital signal processing (DSP), the design methodology gap between software DSP implementation in DSP processors and hardware DSP implementation in FPGA or ASIC technology has grown increasingly apparent. FPGAs (particularly those with hardware DSP features) offer compelling advantages in cost, performance, and power consumption for super-power number crunching. Getting your ideas into one, however, is still many times more difficult than programming a software processor to do the same thing.

Implementing your favorite algorithm in a DSP processor usually requires a few lines of … Read More → "Destination DSP"

Living in the Product Development

Fiscal Focus

The recent downturn in the semiconductor industry, unprecedented in its magnitude and duration, has forced application specific standard product (ASSP) vendors to improve the fiscal efficiency of their product development processes and capabilities, with the intent of maximizing return-on-investment (ROI). Improving development capability and efficiency will lower non-recurring costs, and will also lower the cost of goods sold (COGS), resulting in improved profitability. Successful ASSP companies understand the fiscal benefit of strong design capability and actively seek opportunities for improvement.

< … Read More → "Living in the Product Development"

Customer-Specific FPGAs

Introduction

The risks associated with ASIC solutions increase in magnitude with the move to smaller process geometries. This coupled with the increase in design complexity is compelling companies to look for viable technology options that offer low unit and total costs, high-level of system integration, wide selection of IP, design flexibility with faster time to market, and no/minimal incremental design or design tool investment. Such alternatives must also avoid the pitfalls of ASICs that include high NRE and re-spin expenses, slow turn around times, and complexity of the design environment and ecosystem, and hidden … Read More → "Customer-Specific FPGAs"

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"

featured blogs
Oct 16, 2019
In this week's Whiteboard Wednesdays video, David Peña discusses Cadence'€™s focus on models for various emerging memory standards. https://youtu.be/_Xps6I6kE0E [[ Click on the title to access the full blog on the Cadence Community site. ]]...
Oct 15, 2019
As technology advances, it's becoming harder and harder to know what is real and what isn't....
Oct 14, 2019
My working life includes a lot of writing – blogs, articles, conference papers and white papers are typical of what I produce. A common factor of my writing is that it is aimed to be technical and instructive. What I do not like writing is sales pitches. I can accept th...
Oct 14, 2019
In 1995, I attended a seminar in which the presenter told us that copper was dead.  This sort of statement is not new. The connector market is filled with armchair pundits who predict the demise of everything from D-Subminiature connectors (which are very much alive and ...
Oct 11, 2019
[From the last episode: We looked at subroutines in computer programs.] We saw a couple weeks ago that some memories are big, but slow (flash memory). Others are fast, but not so big '€“ and they'€™re power-hungry to boot (SRAM). This sets up an interesting problem. When ...