Tiny mixed-signal FPGAs used in honking-big workstations - Embedded.com

Tiny mixed-signal FPGAs used in honking-big workstations

Do you recall my blog Teeny-Tiny GPAK4 mixed-signal FPGAs for embedded systems. This was followed by a column from my chum Aubrey Kagan (First impressions on Silego's GreenPAKs), which was, in turn, followed by a column from Duane Benson (GPAK eval — the hardware). Well, I just discovered something rather interesting, but before we go there…

I don't know if I've mentioned this here on Embedded.com, but the Pleasure Dome (my office) is located in a building owned by an engineering company called MaxVision (no relation).

The folks at MaxVision specialize in creating awesome, rugged, transportable computers. Take their MaxPac 8261 XL Dual Xeon Modular Multi-Screen Workstation Family. You can configure these in all sorts of ways; for example, you can go up to 18 processor cores in each Xeon, which gives you 36 processor cores total. Furthermore, these little rascals are hyper-threaded, which means you can have two active threads per core, or 72 active threads total. Couple this with up to half a terabyte of main memory, and you can see why I refer to these beauties as “honking-big workstations.”

I have to tell you that I love these beasts. This is just the sort of thing you need if you have to do a lot of high-end graphics and compute-intensive work — like video editing and production — away from your home base. They also find a lot of use for applications like controlling unmanned air vehicles in hostile environments (they are rated for 0°C to 50°C operation with air filters that will work in a sandstorm). They also come with two, four, six, or even ten 24″ 1920×1200 screens, with touch screens as an option.


MaxPac 8261 XL two-screen configuration.

MaxPac 8261 XL three-screen configuration.

MaxPac 8261 XL six-screen configuration.

But we digress… The reason I'm waffling on about this here is that I was just chatting with an engineer who only recently joined the MaxVision team. We were in the kitchen grabbing a coffee. When our conversation turned to programmable logic, he asked if I'd ever heard of the GPAK devices from Silego.


Teeny-tinyGPAK4 mixed-signal FPGAs from Silego.

I think this engineer (who shall remain nameless) was hoping to surprise me with something new, but the tables were turned when I started spouting factoids at him. As I mentioned in my original column:

The most recent addition to the GPAK family is the GPAK4, and the first member of this fourth generation is the SLG46620V. Presented in a 20-pin STQFN package (2.0 x 3.0 x 0.55mm with an 0.4mm pitch) and supporting a supply voltage of 1.8V to 5.0V, this little rascal boasts 18 general-purpose input/outputs (GPIOs), 6 analog comparators ACMPs, 3 digital comparators/pulse-width modulators DCMPs/PWMs, 2 digital-to-analog converters (DACs), 25 lookup tables (LUTs), and a variety of counter, delay, and flip-flop macrocells.

I think I impressed him with my off-the-cuff knowledge — it all adds to “The Mystery that is Max” (LOL). It turns out that the folks at MaxVision have started to use these tiny GPAKs to provide a vital function in their hairiest of hairy workstations, but I'm not at liberty to say more.

I asked the engineer how he'd come to hear about GPAKs in the first place. You can only imagine how gratified I was to discover that he'd run across Duane's Column here on Embedded.com.

Our conversation was drawing to a close when he said: “Funnily enough, there was a comment from a guy called Max.” I didn’t respond — I just stood there looking at him until his eyes told me that he was having a little “D'oh” moment (LOL).

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