Electronic Design

FPGAs: Hard And Soft Processors

Altera, Lattice Semiconductor, and Xilinx offer a wide range of FPGAs suitable for hosting both a soft processor core and high-speed interfaces such as HyperTransport, PCI Express, and Serial RapidIO. In fact, FGPAs were the testbed for every serial interface, with the possible exception of Gigabit Ethernet.

Today's FPGAs are designed to incorporate this type of interface intellectual property (IP). The FPGA interface ports include high-speed SERDES, simplifying the IP necessary to support the interface. FPGAs lead the pack in speed, allowing for their quick placement into new standards as they move from the 2.5-Gbit/s range to twice that for the next level.

Xilinx Virtex-II Pro and Virtex-4 FX feature one or more hard PowerPC cores within the FPGA. This essentially puts the FPGAs on par with MCUs that support high-speed interfaces. That's because the interfaces typically take up a fraction of the FPGA, leaving plenty of room for additional custom IP.

TAGS: Digital ICs
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