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Custom hardware is dead

It's an announcement that might be a bit premature, but it's a trend on which most will agree.

It is also a trend that National Instruments is following with its latest generation of embedded system controllers. In fact, the CompactRIO 9068 is the star of this year's NI Week in Austin. It follows last year's launch of the Vector Signal Transceiver – the company's first software defined instrument – which has since become its biggest selling hardware product of all time. Now comes the cRIO 9068 as the first software defined embedded controller.

"The combination of processor and fpga is the key to bringing this to life," claimed NI's ceo Dr James Truchard when introducing the new platform. This combination is held together on the Xilinx Zynq SoC, which features a 667MHz dual core ARM Cortex-A9 processor and the Artix-7 fpga fabric with 85,000 logic cells and 220 dsp slices. This beefed up fpga provides more advanced control, signal processing, filtering, advanced timing and other logic than ever before, according to NI.

Perhaps the biggest and most exciting departure for National Instruments is that it has opened its arms to Linux users with the new platform. Its real time Linux based OS gives LabVIEW users the ability to access the library of community sourced applications and IP and to port them into LabVIEW applications. Existing or legacy code can also be incorporated.

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, the themes which NI is following are those of a world that is both platform based and programmable. This new product takes embedded system design further down both paths and is a demonstration of the direction of the direction in which it is heading.

It's all about systems now – programmable platform based ones.

Tim Fryer

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