CHIPS Alliance looks to accelerate Open-Source FPGA tooling

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CHIPS Alliance, the consortium that’s advancing common and open-source hardware for interfaces, processors and systems, has set up the FOSS Flow For FPGA (F4PGA) Workgroup to drive open source tooling, IP and research efforts for FPGAs.

FPGA vendors such as Xilinx (now part of AMD) and QuickLogic, industrial FPGA users and contributors such as Google and Antmicro, as well as universities including Brigham Young University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and University of Toronto, will now be able to officially collaborate under the umbrella of the newly launched F4PGA Workgroup.

“FPGAs are essential for a wide variety of low-latency compute use cases, from telecoms to space applications and beyond. This new F4PGA toolchain will enable a software-driven approach to building FPGA gateware, making code integration easier than ever,” said Rob Mains, General Manager at CHIPS Alliance. “Under the umbrella of the CHIPS Alliance, this workgroup will help unite current FPGA efforts so academia and industry leaders can collaborate on accelerating open FPGA innovation.”

The initial F4PGA projects are focused around the free and open-source FPGA toolchain formerly known as SymbiFlow, as well as the FPGA Interchange Format, which is designed to enable interoperability between open and closed source FPGA toolchains.

CHIPS Alliance’s newest member Xilinx, now part of AMD, collaborated with Google and Antmicro to develop the Interchange Format definition and related tools to provide a development standard for the entire FPGA industry. The FPGA Interchange Format will allow developers to move from one tool to another, lowering the barriers to entry for the entire supply chain – from FPGA vendors to academics and FPGA users.

In addition to the work around the FPGA Interchange Format, several CHIPS Alliance members have collaborated on the FPGA tool perf framework. This open FPGA tooling project provides a comprehensive end-to-end FPGA synthesis flow and FPGA performance profiling framework, allowing developers to analyse FPGA designs by looking at metrics such as clock frequency, resource utilization and runtime.

CHIPS Alliance members have also worked on the development of the FPGA Assembly (FASM) format. The FPGA Assembly (FASM) format is a textual format specifying which FPGA feature should be enabled or disabled; the textual nature of FASM makes it easy to analyse and experiment with in different designs.

Industry support for open FPGA tools has continued to rise with QuickLogic becoming the first company to fully embrace the open-source FPGA toolchain in 2020, and now with Xilinx’ participation in the FPGA Interchange project.

The support for the F4PGA Workgroup promises to help further accelerate industry adoption across geographies and increase confidence in open source FPGA tooling as a viable option for all types of designs.