17 February 2011

FPGA design complexity drives Altera engineering expansion

Growth in the complexity of designing fpga based systems is pushing Altera Europe to expand the systems solution engineering group at its High Wycombe office.

Mark Dickinson, director of the design centre, explained systems solution engineering was 'everything on top of the device'. "It's development tools and reference designs, all the way to complete solutions. We're developing the technology to help system designers."

But Dickinson said: "We are not a design services company. We will engage in system development because we need to understand the constraints. Ultimately, our job is to drive silicon sales, but we will not do complete systems designs free of charge."

The High Wycombe group was established in 1998 and has experienced mixed fortunes since then. Growing to around 70 people on the back of the booming semiconductor industry in the early 2000s, the group has since shrunk back to around 50 people. Now, Dickinson wants to add another 17 people.

"Customers face a number of challenges when implementing fpgas," he noted. "Our silicon platforms, such as Stratix V, (pictured) need to be turned into a solution – and the bigger the company, the less design they want to do. Our emphasis is on making it easier for them to develop complete systems on fpgas."

He said there is nothing geographical about the work being done at High Wycombe. "But it is easier to get, for example, wireless expertise in Europe." The new recruits are likely to come from the markets being targeted by Altera, although some newly graduated PhDs may be taken on.

While mainly focused on communications and image processing applications, the group is also developing tools to help industrial designers. "For motor control," Dickinson continued, "designers would traditionally use a dsp, but they need flexibility and that doesn't come from dsps."

Asked whether Altera was 'pushing' into new markets or being 'pulled' by existing ones, Dickinson said it was a bit of both. "We are certainly pushing in video. We saw an emerging market and a gap in the design methodology. We felt we could address this market and we have been successful. But we are also being pulled by existing users, particularly in the communications sector, who are asking 'what's next?'."

An example of the systems solutions being developed is a traffic manager for 40Gbit communications applications. The design was delivered to a customer – one of only a dozen or so companies active in the sector – on a Strativ IV fpga.

The design can support up to 60million 64byte packets/s and features a multilayer scheduler capable of handling 'hundreds of thousands' of queues. It also offers a scheduler/shaper and congestion control.
He noted the ideal solution was for Altera to provide the platform, while customers provide the final design. "But the competition is not always from an fpga," he continued. "It could be a platform that does the same thing: a network processor, for example. But that's inflexible and we can provide an fpga as a blank piece of silicon."

Author
Chris Shaw

Supporting Information

Websites
http://www.altera.com/

Companies
Altera UK Ltd

This material is protected by Findlay Media copyright
See Terms and Conditions.
One-off usage is permitted but bulk copying is not.
For multiple copies contact the sales team.

Do you have any comments about this article?


Add your comments

Name
 
Email
 
Comments
 

Your comments/feedback may be edited prior to publishing. Not all entries will be published.
Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Related Articles

Global semi sales climb 5%

Worldwide semiconductor revenue increased to $315billion last year, up 5% from ...

Sensor market back on track

Emerging markets such as the Internet of Things, wearable electronics and the ...

Rohm teams with imec

Rohm Semiconductor has joined imec's research programme to develop ultra low ...

Programmable platforms

Historically, developers of programmable logic devices – and, more latterly, ...

Integrate for a smooth flow

System architecture has evolved from being an instinctive dark art – the ...

Roundtable: Demanding answers

Embedded systems have, in the main, been designed around microcontrollers. But ...

The real solution to fake parts

The high tech supply chain is more vulnerable to counterfeit components than ...

XMOS XS1 Architecture

An XS1 combines a number of XCore processors, each with its own memory, on a ...

LED Reference Design

The XMOS LED Reference Design is an Ethernet-based system featuring daisychains ...

Embedded World: Altera

Altera will showcase a suite of embedded fpga solutions at Embedded World 2012 ...

Industrial fpga USB modules

FPGA specialist, Opal Kelly, has announced two industrial temperature versions ...

Front end modules from Murata

Murata has unveiled a new range of microwave monolithic integrated devices for ...

Electronics Sourcing LIVE 2014

15th May 2014, Stadium MK, Milton Keynes, UK

Electronics Design Show 2014

22nd-23rd October 2013, Jaguar Exhibition Hall, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, UK

SN74LV1Txx logic devices

Support up/down translation modes and slash board space with TI's SN74LV1Txx ...

How to power Altera FPGAs

Watch this video to learn how to efficiently power Altera FPGAs.

Powering Xilinx fpgas

This video provides a detailed overview on how to use TI's WEBENCH FPGA Power ...

Will designers have a choice?

The distribution sector is shrinking rapidly. But it's not the revenues, it's ...

$60million well spent?

The fate of MIPS Technologies has been the subject of rumours for several ...

Archive: New Electronics 1972

The electronics news stories making the pages of New Electronics 40 years ago ...

Sarah Macken, ESCO Council

ESCO's new chief executive tells Graham Pitcher that the electronic systems ...

John Richards, Oxford Digital

As the 2014 British Engineering Excellence Awards (BEEAs) programme launches, ...

Julian David, techUK chief

Graham Pitcher hears from techUK's chief executive about how the organisation ...