SAN MATEO, Calif. Alcatel has developed a Gigabit Ethernet media access controller (MAC) core for use in Altera Corp.'s high-density Apex PLD family, a move the companies said will help address a growing trend to marry communications functionality with programmable logic devices.
The MAC is designed to be incorporated in Altera's Apex PLDs, a high-density family manufactured on an 0.18-micron process technology that can also include functions such as memory and high-speed serial I/O, said Craig Lytle, vice president of the Intellectual Property Business Unit at Altera (San Jose, Calif.).
Previously, customers looking for Gigabit Ethernet functionality could use a standalone MAC, but if they wanted to incorporate the feature into Altera's PLDs they had to develop their own core or hire a consultant to do the work. Using a predefined core will speed that latter process, and provide more time to add other functions like a processor, Sonet framer, PCI interface or SDRAM controllers, Lytle said.
"Providing a shrink-wrapped intellectual property function is giving off-the-shelf capability to the customer," Lytle said.
At about 6,000 gates, the MAC was fashioned to further promulgate Alcatel's intellectual property as an industry standard for Gigabit Ethernet. A founder of the Gigabit Ethernet alliance, Alcatel boasts that it has obtained 54 percent of the market for Gigabit Ethernet MAC cores and 80 percent for 10/100 Ethernet through licensing agreements.
"We've been seeing people are putting comms on a PLD and we've seen it more recently with Gigabit Ethernet," said Carrie Dominikus, senior business development manager for Alcatel Technology Licensing Group (Spokane, Wash.). "Altera has the PLDs to facilitate this."
Customers interested in using the Alcatel MAC will first have to obtain a license from Alcatel. That will enable users to gain access to the Altera Web site, where the core can be downloaded in an encrypted format.
The Gigabit Ethernet MAC costs $30,000 as an encrypted netlist and can also be purchased as source code. Alcatel's 10/100-Mbit/second MAC is also available in both forms. By the end of the first quarter, the cores will be available for free evaluations as part of Altera's OpenCore program.
The Alcatel Ethernet MAC has autonegotiation for 1000 Base X and flow control. It operates at 125 MHz on an Apex PLD, and is capable of a sustained 987-Mbit/s throughput. Gigabit PHY interfaces such as the1000FX serializer/deserializer and Gigabit Media Independent Interface are supported.
Alcatel's arrangement with Altera is nonexclusive, and the company is free to investigate forming similar relationships with other PLD makers, but has no plans to do so at this time, Dominikus said.