Good news for the FPGA masses who want access to the ARM ecosystem of operating systems, tools, IP, and applications — last week Xilinx and ARM announced their collaboration to enable ARM processors and interconnect on Xilinx FPGAs. This new dimension of the Xilinx Targeted Design Platform is a dramatic shift by Xilinx, away from their traditional IBM Power PC Architecture.
Meanwhile, over on Innovation Drive, Altera is licensing the MIPS architecture, and the market awaits more information.
Having an on-FPGA ARM is not a new idea. Early this decade Altera introduced their ARM-based hard core then changed strategy toward their NIOS II soft processor. And of course Actel, Altera and Xilinx have been supporting ARM-based soft cores for some time.
The announcement reveals that Xilinx is adopting “performance-optimized ARM cell libraries and embedded memories,” conjuring images of ARM-based hard cores. They mention that the roadmap is toward “joint definition of the next-generation ARM® AMBA® interconnect technology… optimized for FPGA architectures.” This hints that the interconnect will be at least partially in the fabric as one would expect in an FPGA embedded system. How the FPGA architect extends the base system and configures and stitches the fabric remains to be seen. With only vague bits of information released there are many unanswered questions:
If you have any hard answers or guesses about what’s going on here, please to leave a comment.
Personally, I’m exited to get PDTi engineering hands on an ARM-based Xilinx dev kit so we can help our customers continue to simplify their hardware/software register interface management should they choose ARM-based Xilinx embedded systems.
From the comments there are some other great questions: