Xilinx charts high-end DSP roadmap to build demand for its FPGAs - Embedded.com

Xilinx charts high-end DSP roadmap to build demand for its FPGAs


GSPx, Santa CLARA, Calif.—Xilinx, Inc. (NASDAQ: XLNX) today announced the release of application-optimized Xilinx XtremeDSP solutions that accelerate development of multimedia, video and imaging (MVI) systems and extend the performance of digital signal processing (DSP) processor-based applications. This market-driven approach underscores the company's commitment to DSP by delivering comprehensive development solutions with the industry's highest performance FPGA devices, an integrated design environment with robust tools, and easy-to-use pre-packaged development kits.

The MVI-tailored solutions represent the first in a series of products to be introduced with the Xilinx XtremeDSP roadmaps that were also unveiled today in a separate announcement. Xilinx is raising the bar on performance and ease-of-use with the: Video Starter Kit Virtex-4 SX35 (VSK-4VSX35) featuring a streamlined version of the new 8.1i System Generator for DSP tool suite, video co-processing XEVM642 development kit, and new MPEG4 encoder and decoder intellectual property (IP) cores.

“Many of our customers are already using our Virtex-II Pro and Spartan-3 Platform FPGAs for MVI applications, and have requested pre-packaged options that make the performance, power and cost advantages of our Virtex-4 SX platform even more accessible for DSP applications,” said Omid Tahernia, vice president and general manager of the Digital Signal Processing Division at Xilinx. “Our new MVI kits are the direct result of this customer feedback, and enable developers to rapidly implement state-of-the-art DSP systems with the industry's highest performance.”

“At Pixel Velocity, we're using the Virtex-4 SX platform to address very demanding computational requirements in real-time industrial 3D metrology and medical ultrasound applications,” said David McCubbrey, chief technology officer for Pixel Velocity. “Xilinx not only continues to drive DSP performance to higher levels, but is making it easier for our development teams to leverage the competitive advantages of their programmable platforms with complete solutions specifically tailored for the markets we serve.”

Comprehensive MVI-Tailored Solutions
Xilinx MVI solutions provide the programmable hardware platforms, design tools, IP and reference designs needed to kick start development of real-time video and image processing systems for a wide variety of applications, such as video broadcasting and video conferencing, surveillance cameras, medical imaging, home gateway, and digital TV. These platforms can be used to develop high-performance, arithmetic-intensive algorithms that are offloaded from DSP processors to boost overall system performance through efficient co-processing strategies.

“The Virtex-4 programmable technology combines high performance DSP capability with an abundance of features such as embedded cores, control processors, clock distribution, high-speed serial I/O, and memory,” said Hans-Joachim Koch, R&D manager at Siemens Medical Solutions. “Virtex-4 SX devices provided the ideal programmable solution for our next-generation imaging platform, enabling us to achieve the optimal performance and feature set under tight time-to-market and budget constraints.”

Rapid System Configuration with Video Starter Kit
The Xilinx VSK-4VSX35 kit is a simple, yet highly functional development environment that enables developers to rapidly build and deploy video systems. Hardware components include the: Xilinx ML402-SX35 development board and video IO daughter card (VIODC), CMOS image sensor camera, cables and power adapters, as well as complete user documentation and reference designs.

The VSK-4VSX35 kit integrates limited edition releases of the System Generator for DSP and Integrated Software Environment (ISE) FPGA design tools. It also supports a wide variety of standard video interfaces such as DVI, Component Video, S-Video, and SDI to facilitate video and multimedia demonstration, video algorithm development, and system integration and test. This highly optimized development platform is also an excellent environment for developing high performance algorithms that can be used to enhance existing DSP processor-based systems.

DSP Acceleration with Video Co-Processing Platform
The Xilinx Video Co-Processing Kit provides a high-performance Xilinx daughter card for the Texas Instruments DM642 EVM platform. The dedicated daughter card accelerates the DSP capability of the DM642 processor with the Virtex-4 SX35 XtremeDSP engine capable of processing 77 GMACs per second. This creates a powerful DSP/FPGA co-processing platform for taking DM642 designs to higher performance levels, which enables designers to achieve higher resolutions, process multiple video streams simultaneously, and implement in real-time highly complex video codecs for standard definition and/or high definition H.264 applications. The kit also provides developers with complete documentation and reference designs to jump start development.

New MPEG4 Encoder/Decoder
The MPEG4 part 2 encoder/decoder cores can handle scalable resolutions up to D1 (720 x 486 pixels) at 30 frames per second. Additionally, a host processor interface makes these cores ideal for system-on-chip integration across a broad range of MVI applications.

Pricing, Platform & Availability
The Xilinx Video Starter Kit Virtex-4 SX35 (VSK-4VSX35) and Video Co-Processing XEVM642 Development Kit will be available within 30 days for $1,495 and $1,995 US, respectively. The Xilinx MPEG4 IP cores are also immediately available, priced separately at $20,000 for the decoder and $25,000 encoder options. For complete information on Xilinx MVI solutions, visit www.xilinx.com/dsp/.

About Xilinx
Xilinx is the worldwide leader in complete programmable logic solutions. For more information, visit www.xilinx.com.

Xilinx, Inc. , 1-408-559-7778, www.xilinx.com

The launch by Xilinx, Inc. of “application-optimized” DSP products for multimedia, video, and imaging (MVI) systems, as the press release at left notes, represents the first in a series of products that will follow one of four road maps described in a companion announcement. The four road maps&#151MVI, defense systems, digital communications, and DSP tools and methodology&#151are key to the company's strategy for growth: tapping into what it estimates is a $2-billion market for high-performance DSPs.

“Xilinx is a $1.6-billion company that historically has operated in the logic segment of the semiconductor industry. We firmly believe that to continue our rapid growth, we need to branch out into other areas, namely DSPs and embedded processors,” says Narinder Lall, senior marketing manager for the firm's DSPs. Indeed, last year Xilinx created an entire division that focuses solely on DSPs.

Which raises the question Why turn to an FPGA configured to work as a DSP when the market offers lower cost DSP chips that have a fixed architecture? Then answer, says Lall, is simple: performance. The two keys to high-performance digital signal processing are a chip's clock rate and the number of multiply-accumulate (MAC) units it has. Where fixed DSPs, like those from Texas Instruments and Analog Devices, have one, two, or four MACs, Xilinx's Virtex-4 family has parts&#151the SX versions&#151with up to 512 MAC. So even with a clock rate that's half of the 1 GHz reached by some fixed designs, the FPGA approach will leave the fixed design in the dust every time.

To explain how the FPGA can have so many more MACs, Lall notes that fixed DSPs have a software architecture that must address challenging tasks like sequencing and scheduling. In contrast, he says, “FPGAs tackle the processing task from a hardware-centric approach by building the architecture to suit the algorithm.” In the end, while chip-for-chip a fixed DSP costs less than an FPGA version, from a system standpoint, the need for fewer FPGAs to achieve high performance makes them a lower cost choice.

Cost concerns
To be sure, says Lall, fixed DSPs have their place in, say, cell phones, where their performance is adequate and low cost is a high priority. But in a base station handling 1,000 channels, where your choice is between using 250 four-MAC fixed DSPs or two 512-channel FPGAs, the answer is clear. It is also not lost on at least one prominent vendor of fixed DSPs: It is telling that one of the products being announced is an FPGA-based daughter card that serves as a coprocessor to a digital video card driven by a Texas Instruments' DSP (see figure, lower left). “The fact that TI is working with us says that they see a benefit,” says Lall. “They recognize that their parts run out of steam for very high-end applications and they need to provide a cost-optimized solution.”

But Xilinx isn't counting on cost-effective high-performance DSPs alone to win over designers. The company is aware that anyone who is programming conventional DSPs will need to adapt to a different world when making the switch to FPGAs. Specifically, where programmers of conventional fixed DSPs use languages and programs like C, Matlab, and Simulink, designers working with FPGAs “speak” in the hardware description languages of VHDL and Verilog. It's for that reason that Xilinx has charted the last of its four product road maps: DSP tools and methodology. Products in this path, says Lall, “will address the needs of system engineers and DSP designers who are implementing algorithms. We intend to make sure they are able to access the FPGA without having to learn a completely new language.”

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