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The coming of age of the PLD

Posted: 16 Jan 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:PLDs in consumer infrastructure systems? programmable logic? design platform? DSP?

Danne: PLDs have evolved into one of the industry's most valuable design platforms.

PLDs have evolved into one of the industry's most valuable design platforms. Through continuous innovation and an ability to keep up with market needs, programmable logic companies have helped drive these advances, bringing FPGAs to new markets and developing new products to meet changing customer requirements.

When the first reprogrammable device was introduced to the market, engineers marveled at the ability to design and redesign with no cost penalty. In those early years, PLDs primarily served as glue logic, bridging core processes to basic peripheral systems. They found their homes in large form, powerful applications such as communications infrastructure. At that time, the Internet was in its infancy and the majority of semiconductor purchasing power was in the hands of corporations and governments.

Shift to consumer
Now, the Internet and wireless communications have evolved to become a lifestyle. Purchasing power has shifted to consumers, with the demand for applications consuming more than half of the world's chips.

In this fast-paced mobile environment, designers worldwide are shifting away from ASSPs and ASICs to programmable devices for two primary reasons: time-to-market and the ability to differentiate against their competition. While these two attributes have always been the inherent value of programmable logic, cost and power were always a stumbling block, but not any more. Cost and power are now driving factors for design decisions. Altera's new products have ridden Moore's Law to deliver increased densities and functionality at much lower cost and have been designed specifically to meet lower power consumption needs.

The semiconductor market is vastly different from what it was 20 years ago. Once a novelty, PLD design flexibility has become a critical tool enabling companies to deliver powerful new products, while reducing their development costs and time-to-market. Once a niche product, programmable logic is now a market of its own.

Today's PLDs continue to be at the heart of infrastructure systemsthe networking, storage and computing systems needed to power the mobile market. They will continue to be at the heart of industrial controls and medical equipment. PLDs now support the most advanced communications interfaces, those requiring ultrahigh-performance transceiver design and bridging functions dependent on high-performance logic, DSP and memory architectures. Unlike other semiconductor products, FPGAs enable system designers to develop custom components that exactly fit the needs of a particular application. Today's FPGAs can serve as host platforms to complex electronics systems composed of multiple processors, dense memory cells, custom coprocessors and high-performance peripherals. These functions are all implemented in a single device that can be reprogrammed as necessary to support evolving product requirements.

Through innovations in chip design, intellectual property development and process technology, PLDs have also evolved to meet the convergence, convenience, power and cost specifications of today's CE applications. These CE devices don't sit on desktops anymore. Instead, they are tucked into a pocket or held in the palm of a hand. Communications, computing and entertainment devices were all separate systems, and now, they are all combined into a single product. Programmable logic is now in the mainstream of digital consumer system design. From the broadcast system in a TV studio to a satellite beaming your favorite TV program to your new, LCD 1,080i flat-panel TV at home or streamed into your PC through an Internet router and downloaded onto your mobile phone, an FPGA, CPLD or structured ASIC is at play.

-John Danne
Chairman, President and CEO
Altera Corp.

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