Xilinx enters System-on-Module business with ‘open’ standard

April 20, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
Xilinx enters System-on-Module business with ‘open’ standard
Xilinx will sell production-ready FPGA modules and low-cost developer kit for AI designs and release its pin format as an ‘open’ standard and with more limited support.

Xilinx is moving further into the systems business with the launch of a custom, production-ready system-on-module (SoM) with a new support model.

“Xilinx is stepping into the SoM business specifically focussed on vision,” said Chetan Khona, Director, Industrial, Vision, Healthcare & Sciences at Xilinx. “The development environment we are calling accelerated applications and that’s a different way from the way we have engaged in the past. SoMs are small boards about the size of a credit card with memory, power management and other peripherals and they abstract away the complexity of the board of the board. It also great for software developers who can start the development before the hardware team,” he said.

The Kria module is a custom small format card to host a Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC chip with four ARM Cortex A53 processor cores, 250,000 programmable logic cells and a hardware H.264/265 video codec. The SOM also features 4GB of DDR4 memory and 245 IOs, which Xilinx says will allow it to adapt to virtually any sensor or interface.

The module uses a non standard form factor with two 240 pin connectors to a carrier board. Xilinx has developed an $199 evaluation carrier board for the module.  This uses production-ready vision software applications that eliminate all the FPGA hardware design work and only require software developers to integrate custom AI models and application code. Developers can modify the vision pipeline using familiar design environments, such as TensorFlow, Pytorch or Café frameworks, as well as C, C++, OpenCL™, and Python programming languages through the Xilinx Vitis unified software development platform and libraries.

“We found when we surveyed the SoM market that there are standards forming and many have different needs and capabilities,” said Evan Leal, Sr Director, Product Line Management and Marketing at Xilinx.

“Some connectors were too expensive or too big so we have created an open standard for several generation of SoMs. We will put all the specs out there with two 240 pin connectors that give the 245 I/O. We talked with several connector vendors and did our own tests with simulation and test and used a Samtec connector,” said Leal.

The company already sells boards with Ultrascale FPGAs and PCIe interfaces for the data centre, called Alveo.

“Xilinx’s entrance into the burgeoning SOM market builds on our evolution beyond the chip-level business that began with our Alveo boards for the data centre and continues with the introduction of complete board-level solutions for embedded systems,” said Kirk Saban, vice president, Product and Platform Marketing at Xilinx. “The Kria SOM portfolio expands our market reach into more edge applications and will make the power of adaptable hardware accessible to millions of software and AI developers.”

“One of the thigs we are very attuned to is they are bult for rapid deployment,” said Khona. “It has a silver heat spreader on top for thermal management with a flat contact point to the chassis of the box. We are also offering a carrier card that can be a reference design with design files available. These SoMs are sponsored by the industrial division so they are targeted for industrial environments.”

The first product available in the Kria SOM portfolio, the Kria K26 SOM, specifically targets vision AI applications in smart cities and smart factories. The roadmap includes a full range of products, from cost-optimized SOMs for size and cost-constrained applications to higher performance modules that will offer developers more real-time compute capability per watt.

Khota maintains the company will not be competing with its board customers.

“We are going to be complementing existing SoMs – our partners such as iWave have a broad portfolio of SoMs and we don’t plan to offer a broad range or customisation. We’ve been working with them every step of the way.”

With the high volume modules, Xilinx is also changing the way it provides support.

“We have really changed our go to market so it is very much more an online do it yourself model with how to videos, online forums and online support,” said Leal. “Xilinx products are extremely flexible and that can be a good thing and a bad thing, we are looking for our customers to engage online and support themselves through communities and forums.”

www.xilinx.com

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Picture: 
The Xilinx Kria system on module (right) and carrier board (left)

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