Of FPGAs and ASICs

Field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) have their special spaces within the expanding arena of embedded controls. Reconfigurability and capability for product prototyping are prime benefits of FPGAs, leading to faster time-to-market—and favorable price/performance for the right application.

01/15/2004


Field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) have their special spaces within the expanding arena of embedded controls. Reconfigurability and capability for product prototyping are prime benefits of FPGAs, leading to faster time-to-market—and favorable price/performance for the right application. On the other hand, typically more costly ASICs shine in high volume and very high performance applications, where lots of system-level functions are required. But the distinctions are blurring.

Xilinx Inc . recently announced a new architecture that allows optimizing FPGA chips for specific classes of applications and with specific types of functionality built in. Called Application Specific Modular BLock (ASMBL and pronounced "assemble") architecture, the development reportedly innovates design methodology for next generation "platform FPGAs" that target various application domains.


Xilinx’s ASMBL architecture lays out chip functionality in columns running the full length of the device rather than in blocks on the chip.

ASMBL architecture’s columnar layout of functions allows the number of I/O points to increase without enlarging die size, because I/O points can be placed most anywhere on the die (not only on its perimeter). This "freer layout" also applies to power and ground placement, which enhances on-chip power and ground distribution, according to Xilinx. With ASMBL architecture, users can select from several off-the-shelf programmable devices having an optimal mix of logic, memory, I/O points, processors, and other functions.

Also see a related development from Altera Corp . that’s intended to work in the middle ground between FPGA and ASIC approaches in the July 2003 Embedded Controls E-Newsletter .

—Frank J. Bartos, executive editor, Control Engineering, fbartos@reedbusiness.com





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