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Altera integrates dual core Cortex-A9 as it targets embedded systems

Looking to bring the benefits of integrating hard processors and fpgas, Altera has launched what it says is a new family in its portfolio.

Called SoC FPGAs, the parts will comprise a dual core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor and either the Cyclone V or Arria V 28nm fpga fabric. The company says designers will have access to its existing design flow, as well as to the ARM developer community. The result, it claims, will be products with smaller pcbs, lower power consumption and lower price tags.

Alongside a Cortex-A9 processor running at up to 800MHz, the SoC FPGAs also boast ECC protected memory controllers and a range of commonly used peripherals. Ahead of silicon – expected later in 2012 – Altera believes the processor system will deliver up to 4000 DMIPS while consuming less than 1.8W. Six models are planned; two Arria V and four Cyclone V.

Chris Balogh, Altera's senior marketing director for software, embedded and dsp, said the move built on last year's launch of the Embedded Initiative. "The embedded systems community has decided that programmable logic within systems is a good idea. Now, up to 50% of designs use programmable logic and 30% of fpgas feature one or more Nios soft processors."

The processor system and fpga fabric are powered independently and can be configured and booted in any order. The fpga portion can also be powered down as needed to conserve power.

A virtual protyping environment is available for the device, something which Balogh called a 'shrink wrap' developed with Synopys. "Software is the largest part of the design effort," he said. "Software developers won't need to know about virtual prototyping, they can just 'open the box' and boot Linux in less than a minute."

Graham Pitcher

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