SAN MATEO, Calif. Xilinx Inc. is cozying up to the embedded- and software-engineering communities. The company has rolled out an embedded-developer's kit for users of its Virtex-II and Spartan FPGAs, and says it is "alpha testing" a new hardware/software co-design tool.
The announcements put Xilinx closer to its goal of making FPGAs available to the embedded-design market and, ultimately, to software engineers, said Per Holmberg, director of programmable-systems marketing. Combined, he said, those sectors represent hundreds of thousands of potential new users for programmable-logic devices.
The Embedded Developers Kit (EDK) in Xilinx's ISE 5.1i software is designed to make it easier for embedded designers to program the PowerPC and Xilinx MicroBlaze soft cores embedded in the Virtex-II family of programmable systems-on-chip.
Greg Brown, technical-marketing manager for embedded solutions, said the EDK includes tools to generate and customize Xilinx's library of bus infrastructure and peripheral cores that are used as part of the processor system, including all the necessary device drivers, standard C libraries and a board-support package for standalone and real-time operating system applications. The kit also interfaces to widely used third-party tools from companies like Wind River Systems Inc. It comes with a 32-bit MicroBlaze processor.
In the EDK flow, said Brown, engineers use the kit to automatically generate the hardware, software and simulation components based upon the engineers' specifications.
Engineers define the embedded system with the Xilinx Platform Studio integrated development environment (IDE), using the Xilinx proprietary Platform Specification Format. The format interfaces to and is supported by customer and third-party hardware and software tools and design modules.
"The Xilinx Platform Studio is an IDE that supports the hardware configuration and the software configuration to match that hardware configuration," said Brown. "Each side has a description file that holds some of the details of functions, and the tools' processing links them together."
The kit also includes Xilinx versions of the open-source GNU compiler/debugger tool chains for the processors and support for the optional Diab XE C/C++ PowerPC405 OEM compiler from Wind River Systems.
Xilinx is running a promotional special of an EDK license for $495 through year's end. After that the price will be $995 for a one-year license.
On the software front, meanwhile, Xilinx said it has made progress on its internally developed hardware/software co-design tool and is currently recruiting alpha testers (interested parties should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org) to improve the tool before it hits the mass market sometime during the middle of next year.
Brown said ProWare, the internal tag for the as-yet-unnamed solution, includes a set of tools for designing, debugging and optimizing complex systems that use resources such as processors, RAM, DSP functions, high-speed I/O technology and high-density FPGA logic. Architects and hardware or software designers describe their system in ANSI-C, then use the tool interactively to partition software and hardware functions.
Minutes, not days
Brown said the tool includes a library of hardware and software components, called Processing Elements, optimized for particular functions. These let customers who are not familiar with the design process more easily perform partitioning and create a platform with a co-design tool.
Brown said that the tool also will accept Processing Elements from a number of sources, including third-party AllianceEDA, AllianceCore and Embedded Tools partners. The suite's repartitioning technology essentially a compile-time switch enables users to profile, convert to a hardware/software implementation and debug in a matter of minutes rather than days or weeks, he said.