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28nm FPGAs handle over two million logic cells

Posted: 23 Jun 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:FPGA? logic cell? 28nm node? ASIC? wireless network?

Xilinx Inc. is set to roll out three distinct families of FPGAs at the 28nm node, up from the two classes of devices offered at previous nodes.

The move to three familiesincluding the high-end Virtex family, the mid-range Kintex family and the low-cost Artix familyis one of several changes Xilinx about its next-generation devices, known as Xilinx 7 series FPGAs, which are scheduled to be available in Q1 11.

As previously disclosed in February, the series 7 devices will also feature a scalable architecture to enable customers to migrate 28nm designs between the product families much more easily than has previously been possible. The 28nm series 7 devices will also feature 50 percent power reduction compared to the company's 40nm devices and offer capacity of up to two million logic cells.

Patrick Dorsey, senior director of product management at Xilinx, said the company chose to expand to three families of FPGAs at 28nm after meeting with more than 300 customers over the past two years. The customers told Xilinx they wanted the flexibility to migrate designs between families easily, reduced power consumption to enable higher performance and the ability to meet power budgets and a mid-range class of device between Xilinx's traditional high-performance and low-power offerings, Dorsey said.

According to Moshe Gavrielov, Xilinx president and CEO, the series 7 devices will accelerate the trend of FPGAs displacing ASICs. By enabling customers to use less power without compromising on higher capacity and increased performance, the series 7 devices will address a market that is roughly twice the size of that available to Xilinx's 40nm Virtex-6 and 45nm Spartan-6 parts, Gavrielov said.

Gavrielov, acknowledging that FPGA vendors have been claiming to take market share from ASICs for years, said FPGAs are now poised to displace them for a wide variety of applications. "We are not saying [ASICs] are dead, but they are getting more niche, for more high-volume applications," he said. "FPGAs are becoming more mainstream."

The 28nm families also extend Xilinx's targeted design platform strategy introduced with Virtex-6 and Spartan-6 parts, now in volume productions, Xilinx said. The strategy combines FPGAs, Xilinx's ISE design suite software tools and IP, development kits and targeted reference designs to offer a validated set of components that encompasses about 80 percent of a design for various target applications, allowing customers to focus their resources to add differentiating features in the remaining 20 percent or so.

New applications that the series 7 families can address, which were previously the domain of ASSPs or ASICs, include portable ultrasound equipment consuming less than 2W and automobile infotainment systems driven by 12V, as well as low-cost LTE baseband and femtocell base stations.

Xilinx said it is able to minimize total power consumption for the series 7 devices by using a high-k metal gate high-performance/low-power process optimized for low static power consumption. Working with foundry partners Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd, Xilinx helped define the new process to achieve FPGA performance requirements, while lowering static power consumption by 50 percent compared to the alternative 28nm high-performance process. The company then applied architectural enhancements to lower dynamic power consumption both for logic and I/O, while also introducing intelligent clock-gating technology with the release of ISE Design Suite 12.

In addition to providing 50 percent lower total power consumption compared to Virtex-6 and Spartan-6 FPGAs, the series 7 devices consume 30 percent less power than other 28nm FPGA device families.

The scalable architecture used by the series 7 devices is derived from the Virtex series architecture and has been designed to simplify reuse of current Virtex-6 and Spartan-6 FPGA designs. It is also supported by Xilinx's EasyPath FPGA cost reduction solution that improves productivity by enabling a guaranteed 35 percent cost reduction with no incremental conversion or engineering investment.

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