Global Sources
EE Times-India
Stay in touch with EE Times India
EE Times-India > FPGAs/PLDs

TI's multi-processor sol'n takes on FPGA camp

Posted: 11 May 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Texas Instruments  FPGA  ARM  processor  DSP 

Texas Instruments (TI) has developed a line of special-purpose processors that combine multicore ARM processors with multicore digital signal processors (DSPs) and multiple programmable hardware accelerators. The company has made it clear that by bringing to market these devices, it is ready to square off with the field programmable gate array (FPGA) community, such as the likes of Altera and Xilinx.

FPGA-killer sol'n combines ARM processor, DSPs, accelerators
TI released a multi-processor solution that brings new meaning to downsizing, targeting massive avionic, military, T&M and medical instruments, from backpack radars to portable MRIs. The Keystone-II (66AK2L06) claims to allow devices using it to be 66 per cent smaller, use 60 per cent less power, cost 50 per cent less and are three times faster to market than using an FPGA solution.

The question now is this. Can TI pull it off? An FPGA is like a blank-slate that can solve any high-speed computational problem, but at a high-price, difficult programming and a waste of resources (not every gate is used in the vast majority of FPGA designs).

On the other hand, TI will have to create an expanding family of special-purpose chips to address all the niche markets that FPGAs address. Can it be done? We asked TI, Altera and a bevy of analysts what their opinions were and summarised them below. (FPGA-maker Xilinx was contacted too but said "no comment.")

Stratix IV FPGA

Die shot of an Altera Stratix IV FPGA with integrated 11.3Gb/s transceivers. (Source: Altera)

"In my opinion, the TI product offers an interesting prospective, because it can target existing solutions on two fronts: on the FPGA side, the solution offers the lower cost and lower power consumption that underpins the SWaP-C (size, weight and power/cost) requirements for both military and industrial applications while offering comparable performance. In this respect, the solution can not only provide an avenue for more portable solutions, but also offered as an effective replacement for FPGAs in existing equipment," said Asif Anwar, director of Strategic Technologies Practice (known in the U.S. as Strategy Analytics Inc., Boston) "The second front could be the GGPU (general graphics processing unit) segment."

HardCopy II 230 ASIC

Altera HardCopy II 230 ASIC that is compatible with Altera's Stratix II FPGAs. (Source: Altera)

According to Anwar, commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) offerings based around GGPUs have also been offered as alternatives to FPGAs and application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) especially for applications where there is a large amount of data that needs to processed in the same way, for example synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery. The TI SoC, said Anwar, can also target this area while providing more powerful processing capabilities making it an ideal solution for customers that would prefer the performance attributes associated with FPGAs but are having to use GGPUs as a 'good enough' solution because of cost constraints.

"On the GGPU, it is also worth highlighting the fact the there is an inherent limitation where more flexible processing capabilities are needed making them less suitable for applications such as electronic warfare [EW]. The TI solution on the other hand should be well suited to handle the additional complexity in processing requirements associated with EW systems. Will the TI solution make FPGAs obsolete? Of course, there will still be markets where FPGAs will remain the potential 'go-to' solution in terms of the performance/cost argument, for example, in the space sector where FPGAs compete against ASICs. I don't think it is something that will happen overnight, but if TI can offer a family of solutions, then it will offer a credible alternative that looks capable of eroding the market position held by FPGAs."

1 • 2 • 3 • 4 Next Page Last Page

Comment on "TI's multi-processor sol'n takes on ..."
*  You can enter [0] more charecters.
*Verify code:


Visit Asia Webinars to learn about the latest in technology and get practical design tips.


Go to top             Connect on Facebook      Follow us on Twitter      Follow us on Orkut

Back to Top