SAN FRANCISCOFor the first time, programmable logic supplier Xilinx Inc. is simultaneously launching the next generations of its high-end Virtex and low-cost Spartan FPGAs, billed as the foundation for "targeted design platforms" that the company says will be supported by intellectual property (IP) cores, design environments, reference designs and scalable boards and kits offered by Xilinx and third-party partners.
The goal of the new products, according to Xilinx executives, is to offer a validated set of components that encompasses maybe 80 percent of a design for various target applications, allowing customers to focus their resources to add differentiating features in the remaining 20 percent of so. This will reduce both design costs and time to market, executives say.
"The products have been designed more holistically in order to enable our customers to differentiate and get to market a whole lot more quickly than they did in the past," said Moshe Gavrielov, Xilinx president and CEO.
The Virtex-6 and Spartan-6 FPGAs, implemented at 40- and 45-nm, respectively, are Xilinx's first sub-65-nm devices, coming to market six weeks after competitor Altera Corp. began sampling 40-nm Stratix IV devices last December.
The Virtex-6 and Spartan-6 are manufactured by Taiwan's United Microelectronics Corp., a longtime Xilinx partner, and South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., which displaced Toshiba Corp., the second foundry used by Xilinx at 65-nm. Xilinx executives say the company continues to work with Toshiba at the older nodes, but for various reasons chose Samsung at 40-nm in keeping with its strategy of using two foundries per node.
The concept of targeted design platforms is being introduced amid what Gavrielov calls "the programmable imperative," when he says FPGAs will dominate for many applications while traditional gate arrays and structured arrays are relegated to high-volume tasks. Gavrielov argues that factors such as the technological evolution of the FPGA and economic factors such as the rising cost of photomasks make FPGAs the attractive choice for all but the most high-volume applications.
Others say the volume manufacturing cost and footprint advantages of ASICs make them tough to beat.