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Agilent revamps logic analyzer line

Posted: 04 Mar 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:tyco electronics? finger probe resistant version? fpr version? amp power series 50?

Agilent Technologies Inc.'s test and measurement operation gave serious thought during the recession to turning its logic analyzers into a legacy product line. But to keep logic analysis relevant and move to a new generation, the company elected instead to shift to a Windows XP environment and to move logic analysis very close to the latest generation of FPGAs.

The results of this soul-searching has been unveiled when Agilent introduced three members of the new 16900 logic analysis family, three new acquisition modules for these products, two SoftTouch connectorless probes and the company's first dedicated dynamic probe for FPGAs.

"Our customer focus groups told us loud and clear that there was a continuing, indispensable need for logic analyzers," said Bill Schulze, marketing manager for the electronics products and solutions group here. "But they said that design teams had gotten very small, and in some cases inexperienced, so the user interface had to be much easier to use. We also heard a lot about making setup easier and performance much better."

The first step in revamping the Agilent architecture was to take away the baggage of a Unix OS - Hewlett-Packard Co.'s HP-UX - and PA-RISC hardware base in favor of a Windows XP Pro environment, expandable through host-based operations to banks of servers used in back-end operations. Agilent also equipped the products with USB ports, LAN ports, PCI slots and a read/write CD-ROM. (The 16900 is Agilent's first logic analyzer family without a floppy drive.)

On the programmable-logic side, Agilent worked with Xilinx Inc. to develop a library of cores for the Virtex Pro, Virtex Pro II, and Spartan 3 FPGA families. The cores allow a single debug pin in an Agilent probe to measure up to 64 internal FPGA signals.

Members of the new family include the three-slot 16903A with a touchscreen display and support for up to 306 channels, as well as two six-slot systems supporting up to 612 channels: the 16902A, with a touchscreen interface, and the 16900A, which uses an external monitor. The six-slot systems can be daisychained as multiple-mainframe systems, without requiring the expander frames used in the 16700 family of logic analyzers.

The logic analyzer application had to be multithreaded so that remote computers, including multiprocessing servers or server clusters, could control the analyzer. Not only does this make it possible for remote users to access logic analysis from home or on the road, it also allows SMP servers linked via gigabit LANs to offload difficult analysis tasks. The new generation is also the first Agilent product to do post-acquisition analysis of data, allowing remote PC users to either analyze data after collection or perform setup of triggers and configurations off-line, loading them later onto the 16900.

Old, new modules

The new systems can use 11 acquisition modules developed for the older 16700 series. Three new modules are also available. The 16910A and 16911A modules have 4GHz timing zoom, supporting clock rates to 450MHz, and offer either 102 channels (910A) or 68 channels (911A).

The original 256KB memory depth can be upgraded to 1-, 4-, 16- or 32MB. The 68-channel 16950A supports clock rates up to 600MHz and data rates up to 800Mbps, also with a 4GHz timing zoom.

All three modules feature the EyeFinder software for a quick overview of target signal skews. They will soon offer the company's EyeScan package for rapid generation of eye diagrams, replacing many scope functions. Agilent said it does not anticipate the death of the oscilloscope, and is offering direct links between the 16900 family and its Infinium line of scopes.

Agilent worked closely with Xilinx to develop an FPGA dynamic probe. The company's ATC2 (Agilent Trace Core, second-generation) is offered by Xilinx as part of its FPGA library. The core is based on a selection multiplexer with 32 input banks and an optional 2x time-division multiplexer to provide two signals per bank in a state mode. The ATC2 supports synchronous or asynchronous measurements, by selecting state or timing modes.

The core routes out critical nodes to dedicated pins on an FPGA, yet uses only 2 percent of available real estate, the company said.

The logic analyzer mainframes are priced at $12,000 for the 16903A, $15,000 for the 16900A and $16,500 for the 16902A. The FatCat 450MHz modules start at $9,000 each. The WildCat 16950A 600MHz module starts at $18,500.

The FPGA probe will be offered through December at a special promotional price of $995. The E5396A and E5398A SoftTouch connectorless probes sell for $1,900 apiece.

- Loring Wirbel

EE Times





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