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FPGAs to incorporate ARM Cortex IP

Oct 22, 2009 — by Jonathan Angel — from the LinuxDevices Archive

Xilinx and ARM Holdings announced they are collaborating to enable ARM's processor and interconnect technologies on forthcoming FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays). Xilinx will adopt ARM's Cortex processor IP and its AMBA (advanced microprocessor bus architecture), the companies said.

Xilinx said it will "continue to support" the PowerPC architecture, used in current FPGA products such as the company's Virtex-II Pro, Virtex-4 FX, and Virtex-5 FXT, along with IBM's Core Connect bus. However, this week's announcement appears to suggest that PowerPC is losing out in the ongoing processor shakeout. "By moving to ARM technologies, Xilinx will provide customer and ecosystem developers with flexible computing platforms where their IP and software development can be shared and re-used on a broad scale," the company stated.

Forthcoming Xilinx FPGAs — which reportedly will be available as early as next year — will incorporate ARM Cortex processor IP, plus "performance-optimized ARM cell libraries and embedded memories," according to the companies. The alliance is "expected to allow programmable solutions to penetrate even deeper into existing markets, and expand into new market spaces," they added.

"The agreement goes beyond the standard licensing of a processor core," the companies added in a FAQ accompanying their announcement, "because it includes [both] the adoption of Xilinx of ARM physical IP, and a technical commitment by both companies to work together on defining the next version of the AMBA [link] specification." Toted as the "de-facto industry standard for on-chip communication," AMBA was first developed by ARM in 1995 and has now reached version 3.0.

Xilinx and ARM say they will work together to enhance and optimize AMBA for FPGA architectures, in collaboration with third-party EDP (electronic design automation) and IP providers. It's said collaborators will include Cadence Design Systems, Cast, Denali Software, Mentor Graphics, Northwest Logic, Omiino, Sarance Technologies, Synopsys, and Xylon.

ARM Chief Technology Officer, Mike Muller, stated, "Time-to-market pressures and escalating product development costs are driving the development of a new category of products that combines the processor-centric design methods and open standards common in system-on-chip designs, with programmable logic flexibility. By combining ARM's leadership in low-power, high-performance processor and physical IP technology … with Xilinx's expertise in FPGA technology, we can accelerate the development of applications across a broad set of markets for software developers and hardware designers alike."

Availability

Details of Xilink's existing FPGA devices may be found on the company's website, here.

A FAQ answering questions related to the new agreement with ARM Holdings may be found on the Xilinx website, here [PDF link].


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