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Xilinx unveils multiplatform FPGAs

Posted: 16 Jun 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:fpga? xilinx? virtex-4? advanced silicon modular block? asmbl?

Marking its first implementation of FPGAs based on a new modular architecture, Xilinx Inc. is introducing the Virtex-4 family of domain-specific devices offering different feature sets. The new FPGA platforms are based on the company's Advanced Silicon Modular Block (ASMBL) architecture launched last year and offers up to 200,000 logic cells.

Built on a 90nm process by foundry partner UMC, the Virtex-4 family includes three platforms - Virtex-4 LX for logic, Virtex-4 SX for signal processing, and Virtex-4 FX for embedded processing and high-speed serial connectivity. With each platform offering different amounts of resources, Xilinx aims to divide the FPGA market into what it calls "domains" based on standard attributes.

The LX device is the general-purpose offering and provides the most number of logic building blocks per die area. It also offers lots of memory and a smaller percent of digital clock managers (DCMs) and DSP blocks. The LX offering is aimed at the high end of the consumer and industrial market and will also see implementation in the automotive telematics market. "The telematics market will be a good target as cars gain an increasing amount of electronics," said Sandeep Vij, VP of world wide marketing for Xilinx.

The SX platform is the opposite of the LX with a larger percent of the die area being dedicated to DSP blocks. The SX also has almost the same amount of DCMs as the LC but it has a lower amount of logic and memory resources.

"The SX device can be used in the implementation of the TS-CDMA standard in the 3G space for the Chinese market particularly if they add data to the existing voice capability of the 3G base station," said Vij.

The platform can also extend to the 4G space. In fact, Xilinx is already partnering with some universities in China. The company is offering the Virtex-4 platform to these universities as the development vehicle for the 4G standard.

The FX platform is the top-of-the-line offering in the Virtex-4 family and is aimed at the networking space. It is for customers who want to implement full system-level designs based on the platform.

The FX will come with high-speed transceivers and embedded PowerPC processor cores, both of which are not available in the SX and LX platforms. It will have lots of memory resources, DSP blocks and DCMs. It will also offer logic gates at somewhere between the amount offered by the LX and SX platforms.

The FX platform can also be used in servers and network storage because of the Gigabit transceivers. "Many of these applications are switching to mesh backplane designs rather than parallel backplanes," said Vij. These require the use of high-speed serial transceivers rather than having one large switching chip. "These rely on having a mesh fabric of many chips on many cards with serial capability."

The new Virtex-4 offerings are made possible through Xilinx's ASMBL architecture that leans away from the traditional FPGA design. In the traditional architecture, different features have a fixed percentage of resources on the die. If customers wanted more I/O, for example, they just had to buy a bigger device with more I/O features. This means that customers might get more of the other features such as DSP blocks that may never be used. Xilinx hopes to avoid such problem through the Virtex-4 offerings. The new devices offer cost-optimized solutions that can also be offered by ASSPs. However, ASSPs are only optimized for one application. "Customers will have very little capability to differentiate their products from other companies using the same ASSP," opined Vij.

The Virtex-4 platform allows users to customize their solutions and offer better product differentiation in the market place. "A cost-optimized platform based on ASMBL allows users to offer greater value at a less price penalty compared to the traditional programmable logic architecture.

With the Virtex-4 offering, Xilinx hopes to expand its business space from the $5 billion FPGA market to the $36 billion ASIC/ASSP market.

Samples of the LX platform are now available with SX and FX platforms to follow.

- Dave Ledesma

Electronic Engineering Times - Asia

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