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FPGA dev kit targets low-cost Linux-based platform

Feb 26, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 30 views

Xilinx announced a Linux development kit for embedded systems using its low-cost Spartan FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays). The MicroBlaze Development Kit Spartan-3A DSP 1800A Edition is designed to support the company's MicroBlaze soft-cores, and comes with LynuxWork's commercially supported… BlueCat-ME (MicroBlaze Edition) Linux distribution.

(Click for larger view of the Spartan-3A board)

The MicroBlaze Spartan kit and accompanying Linux board support package (BSP) are targeted at embedded design teams working on low-cost Ethernet networking devices that run Linux applications, says Xilinx. The kit supports designs requiring 128MB DDR2 SDRAM, 16MB parallel flash, and 8MB SPI flash. It also supports 10/100/1000 Ethernet, RS-232 Serial, and VGA interfaces.

MicroBlaze Development Kit Spartan-3A DSP 1800A Edition
(Click to enlarge)

The new kit includes the Spartan-3A DSP FPGA development board (pictured top of page), along with LynuxWorks BlueCat-ME, with TCP/IP networking stack and web-server applications. Development tools include Xilinx Platform Studio, which incorporates an Eclipse-based Software Development Kit (SDK) and ISE WebPack design tools. Other hardware includes JTAG download and debug cables, serial and Ethernet cables, and power supplies.

The Spartan-3A XCS3D1800A FPGA can perform at over 20 GMAC/s (20 billion multiply accumulate operations per second), claims the company, yet sells for under $30 in a stripped down (i.e. “spartan”), small-footprint package. Xilinx also sells high-end “Virtex” FPGAs. Some Spartan and Virtex models integrate PowerPC-based hard-cores, while others are designed to run soft-cores. The MicroBlaze soft-core is included under a royalty-free license with Xilinx's $500 “Embedded Development Kit” (EDK).

Last fall, Xilinx added an optional MMU (memory management unit) to MicroBlaze, thereby providing “full” Linux compatibility. In January, the company announced that its soft-core would ship with free IP cores for 10/100 Ethernet, serial UART, I2C, and FPU (floating point unit).

Stated Dean Westman, VP of marketing for the Processor Solutions Group at Xilinx, “The new development kit is the best way for designers to get started quickly on designs where low systems costs are driven by the robust combination of the MicroBlaze embedded processor, Linux OS, and Spartan FPGA family.”


The MicroBlaze Development Kit Spartan-3A DSP 1800A Edition is available now for an introductory price of $400. The regular price will be $600. More information may still be available here.

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