Since the birth of the first FPGA device in 1985, the FPGA industry has cultivated its internal strength on the one hand—technically, the process has developed from 2μm to 65nm, and the number of transistors has increased from 85,000 to more than 1 billion; on the other hand, it has expanded outward— -The application field continues to penetrate from the initial communication industry to consumer electronics, automobiles, industrial control, etc., and at the same time, it is constantly "eroding" the market of DSP, ASIC, ASSP and embedded processors. Today, leaders in the FPGA industry such as Xilinx, Altera, and Actel are no longer fighting alone more than 20 years ago. Around them, an ecosystem of FPGA development and application has taken shape, greatly promoting the development of the FPGA industry.

"Non-traditional" application areas show their talents

The communications industry has always been the most important application area of ​​the FPGA industry. In 2006, the communications industry application revenue accounted for 42% of Altera's total revenue. The company expects that the communications market will still account for the largest percentage of total sales in the future. The same is true of Xilinx, which occupies more than half of the FPGA industry's market share. Around 2000, the communications industry accounted for more than 70% of the company's total sales revenue. That being the case, why are today's FPGA manufacturers struggling to open up new markets in emerging fields such as consumer electronics, automotive, and industrial control?

On the one hand, Zheng Xinnan, Marketing Director of Xilinx Asia Pacific, said in an interview: "The bursting of the IT industry bubble in 2001 was a major milestone. Begin to diversify and enter new areas. FPGA growth is showing signs of moderating, so new markets have to be entered.”

On the other hand, emerging industries such as consumer electronics have requirements for timely product launch, lower production costs, higher performance and more functions, and maintaining reasonable power consumption in the market where they are located, which are precisely the strengths of FPGA products. Therefore, based on the above reasons, the application of FPGA in new fields is a matter of course. In 2002, Altera first launched the Cyclone series of FPGAs that are fundamentally designed for low cost, which changed the face of programmable logic devices. With the introduction of the 65nm Cyclone III series, Altera has further expanded the application field of low-cost FPGAs.

Today's system designers in the consumer electronics field pay more and more attention to power issues. The low-power FPGA market has become a huge market with potential. According to iSuppli's market forecast, of the approximately $20 billion ASIC market, as much as $3 billion will shift to low-power FPGA solutions, such as Actel's Flash-based ProASIC3 and IGLOO FPGAs, whose static power consumption is only 5μW, 4 times lower than similar competitive products. Costs less than $10 and is often used as an ASIC replacement. According to Gartner Dataquest forecast, the global FPGA/PLD market for the consumer electronics industry will grow from $405 million in 2007 to $647 million in 2011.

Based on these and other considerations, Gartner Dataquest estimates that the global FPGA/PLD market for the automotive industry will grow from $93 million in 2007 to $398 million in 2011.

In fact, in 2006, the industrial market was the fastest growing area of ​​Altera's business, with a growth rate of 20 percent. The proportion of Xilinx's communication business also showed a downward trend.

DSP and embedded applications become hot spots

"Before joining Xilinx in 2004, I also thought FPGAs were great for prototyping, but for volume DSP system applications," Omid Tahernia, vice president and general manager of Xilinx's Processing Solutions Group, said in an interview. , the cost is too high, the power consumption is too high. However, it didn’t take long for my view from the DSP perspective to be greatly and irreversibly changed.”

In fact, due to the perfect combination of performance and flexibility, FPGAs are becoming more common in the DSP field, and high-growth markets such as communications, multimedia, and defense industries are in great need of high-performance DSP technology. These markets are characterized by continuous change, constantly changing standards, market demands, customer demands, and competitive dynamics. To keep up with market changes, businesses need a powerful and flexible processor—an FPGA is a particularly well-suited technology.

So, will FPGA, an outsider, and the traditional DSP products of TI (Texas Instruments) and other companies will start a life-and-death battle? Will Strauss, an analyst at DSP market research firm Forward Concepts, predicts that in the next five years, reconfigurable DSP The (99% FPGA) market will grow faster than any other segment of the overall DSP market. Strauss also pointed out that FPGAs are often used to offload heavy computing tasks to help improve the capabilities of traditional DSP chips. In other words, FPGAs are not a replacement for DSPs. Conversely, FPGAs with increasing functionality and performance have opened up new markets for DSP technology.

In this regard, Fang Jin, chief scientist of TI, agreed in an interview. He said: "At present, the application fields of the two are not exactly the same. We have maintained a good cooperative relationship with Xilinx, and there will be no competition in the short term at least." Zheng Xinnan said that in the field of DSP, the company has cooperated very well with TI. Xilinx's DSP is parallel processing, powerful, and has high cost performance. It is most suitable for high-performance and low-power applications. "TI's multi-core DSP will also continue to improve performance, and we will also develop to areas with lower performance requirements, and there may be a crossover of applications in the future." Zheng Xinnan predicted.

Wim Roelandts, CEO of Xilinx, said the company has been focusing on DSP and embedded applications very early, and has developed different tools to meet the needs of DSP and embedded developers. Launched this year, the Virtex-5 SXT platform targets next-generation wireless, defense and multimedia video applications requiring ultra-high DSP bandwidth and lower system cost. The Spartan-3A DSP platform starts at less than $30 in volume production and offers over 30GMAC/s of performance and up to 2200 Mbps of memory bandwidth.

Heroes see the same thing. Altera CEO John Daane said in an interview that Altera's market is not only FPGA, but also expanded to ASIC, embedded and DSP markets. Stratix III E-series models offer rich memory and multiplier resources for data processing applications.

FPGA ecosystem takes shape

Perhaps the greatest contribution of the FPGA industry to the semiconductor industry is the creation of the Fabless model that is widely used by semiconductor design companies around the world today. In its early days, Bernie Vonderschmitt, one of Xilinx's founders, succeeded in convincing Japan's Seiko that it would be beneficial to both parties to use the company's manufacturing facilities to produce chips designed by Xilinx. The no-line model was born!

Today, Xilinx adopts the dual foundry strategy of UMC and Toshiba, while Altera uses TSMC, the world's largest foundry, to produce chips for it. John Daane said: “Collaboration is the cornerstone of our mutual market success. We have a strong track record in product launches at the latest process nodes, such as smooth and error-free rollouts at 90nm and 65nm. On 45nm, we will continue to do so. An excellent record."

In addition to foundries, FPGA development tools and test manufacturers have also launched corresponding products, promoting the formation of the FPGA ecosystem. Synplicity has long focused on FPGA design, using the latest FPGA technology in the field of electronic design automation. Yang Haojin, the company's sales manager in China, said in an interview with a reporter from China Electronics News that these can make FPGA design more successful, and the world's top PLD manufacturers have worked closely with Synplicity. So, as long as FPGA is available, Synplicity can support it.

The FPGA Advantage integrated development environment closely combines Mentor's three powerful tools, HDL Designer Series, Modelsim and Precision, to provide an integrated and easy-to-use complete solution for FPGA design, covering design creation, simulation, synthesis, and layout. Cabling and management of documentation and designs.

Tektronix has a complete range of test and measurement solutions to address the challenges of FPGA design and test, accelerating product development and time-to-market. Tektronix's FPGA test and measurement solutions can be divided into three categories: real-time board-level in-circuit debugging solutions based on logic analyzers, real-time signal integrity testing solutions based on high-performance oscilloscopes, and mixed-signal environment testing and debugging solutions based on mixed oscilloscopes.

Responsible editor: gt

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