Thursday, November 23, 2017

Microcontrollers With Embedded FPGA Cores - Old Wine In Old Bottle!

Tony Kozaczuk has written a blog "The Future of Microcontrollers" where in he argues that offering a wide variety of microcontroller variants is needed to enable the customer to choose an optimum part for a given application. But offering a large list is tough since mask costs are prohibitively expensive. He then makes a case for a product offering from his company that is targeted to ARM silicon vendors to integrate on their ARM offerings and the various applications these FPGA cores could be used for.

This is like old wine in a old bottle. In the early 2000s, Atmel had offered an AVR based product called FPSLIC that had up to 40,000 gates of SRAM based FPGA. That product never really took off, probably for many reasons, one of which could be the effectiveness and efficiency of the FPGA software tools. Xilinx and Altera both have had FPGAs with resident ARM cores but the pricing of these parts put it beyond hobby/educational use. It appears that Cypress too has a microcontroller offering that has an on-chip FPGA but sadly, I have never been a PSoC user, so that's that.

I think Tony is right. It is a mature time to make a fresh bid for vendors of ARM/AVR/PIC chips to offer resident FPGA cores to speed up functionality and/or add novel, on-chip functional units on the fly at the OEM or customer/user end. They could even take the opportunity to reeduce the chip variety since the on-chip FPGA could be called upon to provide the needed function. What needs to be very clearly sorted out, is the FPGA programming/simulation part of the ecosystem.


Post a Comment

<< Home