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Next-gen Virtex, Spartan FPGAs launched

Posted: 04 Feb 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:FPGA Virtex Spartan? targeted platforms design? IP core?

For the first time, Xilinx Inc. is simultaneously launching the next generations of its high-end Virtex and low-cost Spartan FPGAs, billed as the foundation for "targeted design platforms" that the company says will be supported by IP cores, design environments, reference designs and scalable boards and kits offered by Xilinx and third-party partners.

The goal of the new products, according to Xilinx executives, is to offer a validated set of components that encompasses maybe 80 percent of a design for various target applications, allowing customers to focus their resources to add differentiating features in the remaining 20 percent of so. This will reduce design costs and shorten time-to-market, executives said.

"The products have been designed more holistically in order to enable our customers to differentiate and get to market a whole lot more quickly than they did in the past," said Moshe Gavrielov, Xilinx president and CEO.

First sub-65nm devices
The Virtex-6 and Spartan-6 FPGAs, implemented at 40nm and 45nm, respectively, are Xilinx's first sub-65nm devices, coming to market six weeks after competitor Altera Corp. began sampling 40nm Stratix IV devices last December.

The Virtex-6 and Spartan-6 are manufactured by Taiwan's United Microelectronics Corp., a longtime partner of the programmable logic supplier, and South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd, which displaced Toshiba Corp., the second foundry used by Xilinx at 65nm.

Xilinx executives say the company continues to work with Toshiba at the older nodes, but for various reasons chose Samsung at 40nm in keeping with its strategy of using two foundries per node.

'Programmable imperative'
The concept of targeted design platforms is being introduced amid what Gavrielov calls "the programmable imperative," when he says FPGAs will dominate for many applications while traditional gate arrays and structured arrays are relegated to high-volume tasks. Gavrielov argues that factors such as the technological evolution of the FPGA and economic factors such as the rising cost of photomasks make FPGAs the attractive choice for all but the most high-volume applications.

Others say the volume manufacturing cost and footprint advantages of ASICs make them tough to beat.

Xilinx's concept of a targeted design platform includes four levels. The foundation is the base platform, which includes the Virtex-6 and Spartan-6 devices as well as software, base IP and base boards. The second level includes domain-specific development kits for embedded, DSP and connectivity as well as domain IP, tools and daughter cards.

The third level offers software and IP tailored to some target market applications, including communication, display, wireless, broadcast, analytics and automotive. The fourth level is the customer design, which can encompass around 20 percent of a total design, or more, depending on customer preferences and other factors.

Roll out
According to Brent Przybus, Xilinx director of product marketing, the elements of the targeted design platforms will be rolled out in stages. The base platform elements, including the new Virtex and Spartan devices, will be available by Q2, he said. The domain-specific elements will be available in Q3 and Q4, while the market-specific components will be rolled out early next year, he said.

"This is a process; it will evolve over time," Przybus said. "Portions of it are available now; portions will be rolled out in coming months. Going forward, the traditional solutions they have used in the past are falling by the wayside because of financial and technical implications."

Xilinx said Spartan-6 devices are sampling to customers today. General availability of both the Spartan-6 and Virtex-6 are expected in Q3, the company said.

The Spartan-6 family is priced between $3 and $54 in high volume of 10,000 units, according Pryzbus. The Virtex-6 range is priced between $50 and $2,000, depending on FPGA logic capacity and volume.

Compared with their predecessors, the Virtex-6 and Spartan-6 offer 20 percent faster performance at 40 percent lower cost, according to Xilinx. The devices consume up to 65 percent less power than their predecessors, the company said. The products also promise greater than 200 percent DSP bandwidth, more than 200 percent higher serial I/O bandwidth and more than 37 percent higher parallel I/O bandwidth, Xilinx said.

"This is what we are providing customers: accelerated development time in addition to real benefits in terms of power and cost," Przybus said.

Virtex-6 FPGAs operate on 1V core voltage, with a 0.9V low power option also available, according to Xilinx. Spartan-6 FPGAs come with advanced power management capabilities with the ability to operate at a lower power 1V core option, Xilinx said.

Virtex-6 FPGAs are fabricated on a 40nm, triple-oxide, 12-metal layer process, while the Spartan-6 is fabricated on a 45nm, nine-metal layer dual-oxide process technology, according to Xilinx.

- Dylan McGrath
EE Times

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