Answering the call for lower-cost alternatives to big FPGAs, Xilinx Inc. is offering a software-based solution, rather than re-engineering silicon.
EasyPath, introduced on Monday, is Xilinx's answer to FPGA-to-ASIC conversions, which are hard to do from complex architectures. The new process is aimed at reducing the cost of Xilinx's most advanced and expensive Virtex-II chips.
Unlike conversion methodologies, which retarget programmable logic designs into smaller die, EasyPath retains the original FPGA's die size, pinout, placement, and timing, so there's no risk that the device won't work, said Babak Hedayati, senior director of product solutions marketing at Xilinx, San Jose.
Cost reduction comes through improved die yields, resulting from what Xilinx calls custom testing, done by Xilinx using the customer's design file. The approach, similar to one used by gate-array vendors, tests only the circuits required for a particular design, significantly reducing the potential for defects.
"Customers are getting the same, exact silicon, but they've opted for a fixed design," Hedayati said. "Because we're now only testing specific circuitry, we're using a lot fewer resources on the chip, therefore getting much higher yields."
Xilinx projects customers' savings could range from 30% to 80%, depending on the size of the device. An EasyPath XC2V3000, in 15,000-unit quantities, is expected to be less than $200.
As a result, Virtex-II may reach into applications that have been too expensive to consider, said Steve Sharp, senior manager of silicon solutions marketing at Xilinx. "With a smoother path to cost reduction, people might start PLD designs thinking in terms of higher volume," he said.
EasyPath is the latest of several product entries that address the need for a cost-effective option for medium-volume production. Increasing demand has recently spurred gate-array and conversion houses to soup up old architectures, and has drawn the top two PLD vendors back into the fray.
Altera Corp., San Jose, last fall returned to the conversion market with HardCopy, a direct-conversion process intended to keep volume-minded PLD customers from straying to ASIC alternatives.
EasyPath also marks Xilinx's return to this arena after dismantling its Hardwire conversion program in 1999.
EasyPath minimum order quantities range from 5,000 to 10,000 units. Custom charges to cover development of application-specific test programs are $150,000 to $300,000.
EasyPath will initially be offered for Virtex-II XC2V3000, '4000, '6000, and '8000 parts.