SAN JOSE, Calif. Xilinx Inc. says it's on track for yearend sampling of its Virtex 2 FPGA with an embedded PowerPC core. But rival Altera Corp. has postponed plans to offer PowerPC and MIPS-based processor cores for its FPGAs, citing cost concerns.
At a recent press briefing, Xilinx executives said the company is getting ready to manufacture the Virtex 2 Pro with the PowerPC 405 core at IBM Microelectronics and Taiwan 's United Microelectronics Corp. The device is based on a nine-metal-layer copper interconnect, low-k dielectric, 0.13-micron process technology, said Rich Sevcik, senior vice president and general manager of FPGA products at Xilinx.
The Pro will tout processor speeds of 300 to 400 MHz, providing enough horsepower to handle 6 Gbytes/second of I/O bandwidth. Xilinx is also working with IBM on a 500-MHz PowerPC for next year that will exploit 0.1-micron design rules, and it plans a 1-GHz 64-bit RISC processor core based on 0.07-micron process technology for 2003, Sevcik said. The RISC architecture was not disclosed.
Xilinx considers its first hardwired embedded processor which will be placed in the center of an FPGA fabric one of its crowning technical achievements. The Virtex 2 Pro is designed to handle 3.125-Gbit/second serial I/O and can be scaled for 10 Gbits/s, said Sevcik.
Altera, meanwhile, acknowledged that it has scaled back its efforts to embed MIPS and PowerPC cores into its Apex programmable logic devices.
Altera took a MIPS license last year, and for some time this year its Web site showed a preliminary data sheet of an Excalibur device with a MIPS32 4Kc processor core, which was said to operate at 200 MHz and to deliver 240 Dhrystone Mips. Altera had shown three versions of the device, with varying amounts of memory and programmable logic elements. The strategy was consistent with the company's latest Apex devices, which use an embedded ARM9 core.
Altera had also started negotiations with Motorola to license the PowerPC last year but has since decided to hold off on that project. Instead, Altera has focused on its ARM9 hard processor and Nios soft microcontroller cores, both of which are shipping now.
"The reason we slowed PowerPC and MIPS is that there are significant resources required in terms of tools, development board kits and intellectual property," Altera president and chief executive officer John Daane said in a recent conference call with Wall Street analysts. "We still are a MIPS licensee and still have avenues for PowerPC but have no plans within current-generation technology to pursue them. We will [reexamine those avenues] for the next-generation product 0.13 micron which you will hear about next year."
Xilinx, for its part, said it had considered licensing ARM and MIPS but decided it would be better to concentrate on the PowerPC and its homegrown Microblaze soft processor core because of the large tool development and engineering support required for each architecture.
"This task is huge. It's not just something you can churn out every six months," said Babak Hedayati, senior director of product marketing at Xilinx.