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Conduction-cooled cPCI boards to combine Altera FPGAs with DSPs

Posted: 21 Mar 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:GT-3U-cPCI? signal processing? FPGA? DSP? BittWare?

Board maker BittWare Inc. pre-announced its plans for a new family of ruggedized hybrid signal processing boards based around FPGA-maker Altera's Stratix II GX FPGAs and DSPs. These boards will be cPCI (CompactPCI) compatible.

These conduction-cooled boards will be optimized for high-end multi-processing applications. The BittWare GT-3U-cPCI (GT3U) board will be the first board in a line of hybrid embedded systems-level products from the company.

In addition to the Altera Stratix II GX FPGA, the products will feature a processing cluster consisting of four Analog Devices chips, namely the ADSP-TS201S TigerSHARC DSPs. The DSPs will use up to 1Gbyte of DDR2 SDRAM.

"Any debate over FPGAs versus DSPs in rugged applications is a moot point," said Jeffry Milrod, president and CEO of BittWare. "Military designers require multi-processor based designs using a combination of floating-point DSPs with FPGAs to provide flexibility."

Jeff Lamparter, marketing director of the military and defense business unit at Altera concurs. "BittWare's roadmap based on Stratix II GX and ECOTS (enhanced commercial off-the-shelf) will provide the military and aerospace communities with a COTs approach for demanding applications."

Three-pronged dilemma
The GT3U also uses BittWare's Advanced Transfer Link Architecture for New TigerSHARC (ATLANTiS) interface between its FPGA and the DSPs. Implemented in the FPGA, ATLANTiS solves three dilemmas facing multi-processor designs: (1) how to allocate I/O bandwidth among the processors, (2) how to connect various I/Os to any and all processing resources, and (3) how to integrate FPGA and DSP processing.

By implementing ATLANTiS in the Stratix II GX FPGA, BittWare solves these three problems, with 4Gbps continuous throughput. What's more, there are ample FPGA resources remaining for additional processing.

ATLANTiS I/O (input and output) switching and processing implemented in the FPGA facilitates off-board I/O and provides communications routing and processing, letting system designers set-up and dynamically change connections as specific applications require. All I/Os are routed through ATLANTiS, giving you nearly infinite options for configuring and routing the I/O. BittWare claims this greatly increases the performance and flexibility of multi-processor, multi-board applications.

Let's look a bit more closely at the GT-3U-cPCI itself. Using the processing cluster consisting of four ADSP-TS201 DSPs provides 14.4GFLOPS of floating-point processing, and 57.5BOPS of 16bit fixed-point processing power/board.

Complementary processing
The Stratix II GX FPGA provides pre-processing, post-processing or co-processing to complement the DSP processing cluster, while also enabling seamless routing of TigerSHARC I/O, and simultaneous on-board and off-board data transfers at a rate of over 2Gbps via the ATLANTiS architecture.

The GT3U also supports memory modules of up to 1Gbyte of DDR2 SDRAM. The front panel supplies four channels of high-speed Serdes transceivers. The Serdes can be configured in ATLANTiS to support a variety of I/O protocols including Aurora, SerialLite, Serial Rapid I/O, and PCI Express.

The board's back panel supplies 10/100 Ethernet, two standard serial interfaces conforming to either RS-232 or RS-422, and 34 LVDS pairs comprised of 16 inputs and 20 outputs.

BittWare's SharcFINe PCI-DSP bridge chip provides the interface between the processing cluster and the DSPs. this gives low-overhead access to the host via a 32bit 66MHz PCI interface.

The chip also provides a general-purpose peripheral bus that lets the DSPs access the 10/100 Ethernet port on the back panel, as well as flash, and the FPGA control registers. Conversely, the SharcFINe chip provides host access to the DSPs, on-board SDRAM, flash and FPGA control registers.

Software support
BittWare says it will offer comprehensive software support for the GT3U. Its BittWorks software tools will provide host interface libraries and a variety of diagnostic utilities and configuration tools. Also available are BittWare's TS-Lib optimized libraries for TigerSHARC, and a board support package for Gedae.

Many third-party tools are also available to support BittWare's hybrid embedded boards, including Analog Devices's VisualDSP++ and targets for the popular MATLAB and Simulink packages.

RTOS available include Analog Devices' VDK (VisualDSP Kernel) and ENEA's OSEck.

BittWare says a commercial version of the GT3U will begin shipping in the third quarter. A ruggedized version will begin shipping in the fourth quarter. Pricing will be about $10,000 and $15,000, respectively for boards equipped with the 512Mbyte DDR2 SDRAM option.

- Gina Roos

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