Xilinx is aiming to take on DSP vendors such as Texas Instruments, Lucent Technologies, Motorola and Analog Devices with the Electronica launch of its XtremeDSP, an FPGA-based initiative.
Wim Roelandts, Xilinx's president and CEO, says XtremeDSP marks a commitment from his company "to further establish itself as the leading provider of high-performance DSP solutions", and that it is the first step towards the automated design of DSP and data path system architectures from C++ and Java.
Roelandts wants engineers to leave behind notions that FPGAs are only for development or prototyping. He said that, with XtremeDSP, FPGAs would become the superior performance and time-to-market solution for broadband communications.
XtremeDSP is based on chips in the forthcoming Virtex-II range of FPGAs that will be provided with up to 192 18 5 18bit single-cycle multipliers, associated registers, up to 3.5Mbit of dual-port ram and up to 10 million configurable logic gates.
The result, Xilinx claims, is a theor-etical maximum multiply-accumulate performance of 600 billion 8 5 8bit multiply accumulate cycles (MACs) per second, more than 100 times faster than leading embedded DSP cores.
The multipliers are also cascadable, allowing a smaller array of 32bit multiplies to be done in parallel.
Xilinx estimates that fourth-generation comms protocols will require 1500 billion MACs per second performance and future broadband standards could require 2500 billion MACs. These extreme numbers are something that XtremeDSP could provide by 2004, according to Xilinx.
Roelandts says that, by 2002, XtremeDSP chips should be on 100nm process technology, allowing much higher capacity devices and teraMAC per second performance, leaving conventional DSP architectures far behind.
The implication is, he says, that XtremeDSP will take design wins from established DSP chips and DSP-based asics and ASSPs for broadband comms in fixed and wireless applications.
Will Strauss, president and founder of Forward Concepts, a specialist DSP consultancy, supported Roelandts' view.
"XtremeDSP does things you can't do with an ordinary DSP processor," he said. "I'm not sure I believe XtremeDSP can get into handsets - there are some power consumption issues there - but 3G presents a tremendous opportunity for all the players. And it's noticable that Ericsson, the world's largest supplier of mobile comms basestations, is one of Xilinx's customers.
"XtremeDSP is going to be a wake-up call to the competition."
According to Forward Concepts FPGAs sold into DSP applications this year will increase by 50%, while the market for conventional DSPs will grow 40%. The arrival of XtremeDSP with its extra features specifically aimed at DSP could push that growth even higher.
Peter Clarke is European editor of EETimes, our US sister publication.