The range of FPGA products in the market continues to increase, offering the promise of a highly integrated solution whilst retaining the fundamental advantage of user programmability.
However, just keeping up to date with the latest products from Xilinx, Altera and Lattice together with understanding the tools/methodologies necessary to achieve an efficient implementation can take considerable time and effort. Through working with FPGA technologies on a daily basis, Alans Tek has developed specialist expertise that allows us to take the lead and deliver a truly optimal design that maximises performance and reduces unit cost.
RTL Coding :
Good quality HDL code ensures good quality of results from synthesis and facilitates efficient reuse. Alans Tek has extensive experience in creating a broad range of designs using both VHDL and Verilog, based upon a robust set of coding guidelines.
Our FPGA designers take the ‘blow and go’ approach to verifying and debugging their design, This may work for smaller CPLDs and FPGAs but the odds of creating a multimillion-gate design and then debugging it successfully on the bench in a reasonable amount of time are very small.
Alans Tek employs software-based simulation of FPGA design in much the same way as our ASIC development team has been applying for years. For pre-verified IP there needs to be a pragmatic approach to minimize the verification effort but a simulation environment should be available to allow reported system issues to be re-created in a software-based simulation. This approach minimizes the time spent debugging on the bench and allows corner case verification cases to be developed and functional coverage to be measured. Our methodology has been proven over the many years we have been developing products for our customers to reduce the overall time-to-market and improve the reliability of the products in the field.
There was a time that just setting a global maximum clock frequency would constrain an FPGA design. Modern FPGA devices support multi-clock domains, multiple PLLs and high-speed interfaces such as DDR3. FPGA tools have matured offer the past few years, and now include accurate static timing engines supporting ASIC compatible constraint scripting languages.
Device Fitting and Timing Closure
For reliable operations across all process, temperature and voltage corners, timing constraints need to be developed and static timing carried out after each fitting to ensure that the design will work in the intended environment. Alans Tek apply their expertise developed on high-complexity ASIC designs to generate real world timing constraints and achieve the required timing in the optimum speed grade device.
FPGA IP and Design Reuse
Alans Tek will utilize the FPGA vendors growing array of quality, technology optimized IP as required to make sure that the overall requirements are met with the minimum of new design and verification effort. In some cases specialist third party IP may need to be procured. Alans Tek understand the technical and commercial issues in selecting and integrating IP cores. Our own IP library can be drawn upon to accelerate the project development. The library components are FPGA vendor independent, allowing the designs to be migrated between FPGA vendors or even retargeted to an ASIC. Some of our IP cores have been designed to overcome identified short coming in a specific FPGA vendor IP cores. Alans Tek’s growing IP portfolio provides a broad set of Communication, DSP algorithms, processor peripherals IP and a highly configurable soft processor architecture called eSi-RISC. eSi-RISC offers excellent performance and exceptional code density compared to FPGA vendor software processors. Saving valuable on-chip memory resources.
Cost Deductions of FPGA Designs
Moving to the next fastest speed grade in your chosen FPGA can increase your unit component price by 20 to 30%. Even the IP supplied by the specific FPGA vendor might not be optimised to make the most efficient use of the available resources on the device, resulting in a move to the next largest device increasing the product cost significantly.
In many cases unit cost is secondary to time-to-market and getting the design to the customer is the overriding requirement. When unit cost becomes important Alans Tek’s expert FPGA designers can take either a top-down approach to reduce the cost of the FPGA device or use advance fitting and floor planning to fit the device in a slower speed-grade or smaller part, or even migrate the design to a low-cost family of devices.