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Xilinx puts Cortex-A9MP into fpga fabric for ‘new class of device’

Xilinx has announced what it calls a new class of device that blends a programmable fabric with an ARM Cortex-A9MPCore multiprocessing system. "This announcement isn't a traditional fpga platform," claimed Vin Ratford, Xilinx' senior vice president for worldwide marketing and business development. "It's a true processing platform."
Xilinx is calling the new architecture the Extensible Processing Platform (EPP). "We've borrowed the term from the embedded world, where it is used to describe systems that can have new features added as requirements change," Ratford continued.

The move has been made in response to demand from customers for more powerful programmable devices which cost less, consume less power and which are smaller than today's fpgas. "FPGAs have always delivered on performance," said Ratford, "but they haven't always done so on power, cost and size."
The platform, which will be manufactured on TSMC's 28HPL process, is being positioned as an alternative to the development of multichip systems. "When designers needed higher performance, they have tried to tackle the problem with multiple chips. You can take an assp, a dsp and so on," Ratford suggested, "but that's expensive and it uses too much power. When you start with fixed functions, you won't have the extensibility needed for emerging applications."
"Taking advantage of the parallelism of programmable logic is an excellent method for overcoming cost and power challenges in systems that require significant levels of high performance," said Simon Segars, President ARM Inc. "Xilinx's new architecture abstracts much of the hardware burden away from the embedded software developers' point of view, giving them an unprecedented level of control in the development process."
The platform will be software and hardware programmable, says Ratford. "We are providing a hard wired SoC that boots an OS at start up and allows applications developers to start writing code."
The interface between the ARM system and the programmable fabric is via the AXI bus, which has been modified for more efficient use within fpgas. "It's designed for efficient interconnections," Ratford pointed out. "The Cortex-A9 is used in data intensive applications and, in this environment, data traffic can add a lot of power consumption and efficiency is important."
Example applications outlined by Xilinx suggest parts will offer 3335DMIPS and 60GMACs, along with a memory bandwidth of 4.3Gbyte/s. However, no further details of the range are being released and availability will not be discussed until early 2011.

Graham Pitcher

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