SAN JOSE, Calif. QuickSilver Technology Inc. said it is ready to take on ASICs and FPGAs with a design platform that uses some radical reconfigurable computing principles. The Silicon Valley startup has developed the platform to solve common design problems.
About six years in the making, the company's adaptive computing platform is a start-from-scratch approach that will require designers to look at chip development in a new light. Company officials acknowledge that its adaptive computing machine technology will require an adjustment, but they hope the time-to-market rewards promised will prove too enticing to ignore.
The first step for designers: Forget what you already know about creating algorithms, devising hardware and software co-design plans, picking CPUs, writing Verilog and stitching together hardware blocks.
For QuickSilver's platform, both programming and chip design are described in just one language a variation of C that the company calls SilverC. This unified programming environment is used to create a high-level abstraction layer that hides hardware and task scheduling from a user.
"There's no need for Verilog and or assembly and no need to move to a CPU or DSP. In this way, things don't get lost in the translation," said John Watson, vice president of marketing atQuickSilver.
Code is executed through an array of hardware nodes, each containing specific algorithmic engines and wrapped in more generic components. The company has come up with four engine types: a RISC engine based on the ARC4 processor; an array of arithmetic logic units for bit manipulation; a multiplier; and a memory controller for off-chip memory.
As many as 32 of these nodes can be placed on a die employing 0.13-micron technology. More engines are in the works, including a controller for internal memory and an array of multiply-accumulators.
SilverC uses C-code constructs to describe what goes on inside these computational "bubbles," Watson said. This may include assigning tasks to a node, describing input and output ports or defining buffer sizes. Tasks can be constrained to a single node or spread out among, say, four nodes to maximize performance. No matter what the case, the nodes are always application-independent, are in constant use and have automatic scheduling, according to the company.
With just 75 employees, the company said it needs to rely on licensees to evolve the platform. QuickSilver is now offering technology licenses for $300,000, while the tool set costs $50,000 per seat.