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Altera announces its answer to Zynq

Technology News |
By eeNews Europe


Like Zynq, it integrates an ARM MPCore subsystem but isn’t defined as an additional product family, rather as a new classification of devices. The SoC FPGAs, as they are termed, are more closely aligned with Altera’s Cylcone and Arria FPGA fabrics by classification than the Zynq is with Xilinx’ existing FPGA families.

However as they are both based on a 28nm process and use the same MPCore subsystem, they are bound to be looked at as comparable. One differentiating feature that may be significant is Altera’s Virtual Target, which it has developed in association with Synopsys to allow customers to start developing software for the microprocessor subsystem as of today, far in advance of silicon becoming available, which isn’t expected until the second half of 2012.

According to the company, most developers have moved away from hardware accelerators and are adopting virtual software based development platforms. According to Chris Balough, Senior Director, Product Marketing, Embedded Processing with Alera: “It’s not without compromise, but on the whole it feels like it’s the right choice.”

However the virtual target, which costs $25k, only addresses the processor subsystem; any hardware design targeting the FPGA fabric still needs a hardware-in-the-loop approach. Balough explained: “There’s nothing technically innovative about the virtual target, but a complete virtual prototyping environment costs much much more and they’re difficult to configure and use. The innovation here is this is a shrink-wrapped virtual target and although it’s closed to developers it should be adequate for most.”

According to Balough, one of the primary differences between Alter’s solution and Xilinx’ Zynq is the bandwidth between the processor subsystem and the FPGA fabric. Another significant feature not present at launch is the ability to partially reconfigure the FPGA fabric while the system is running. Balough stated that they had not announced software support for this, but that the fabrics used are inherently capable of supporting it. It was also confirmed that there are no plans to offer a HardCopy version of the devices


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