The proliferation of FPGAs into the embedded computing industry has opened up many new pathways for designers to design cost-effective systems that will withstand technology upgrades, changes in application requirements, and requests for low volumes for system components. Because it allows a user to update functionality after the device has left the manufacturer, FPGA technology gives embedded designers the flexibility to configure both customized and standard products. They can rethink the way systems are constructed and build ones that significantly advance existing technologies and blaze new paths for cutting-edge embedded systems.

FPGAs are now incorporated into a variety of embedded computing components including 6U CompactPCI (CPCI) single board computers (SBCs), blade servers, and PCI mezzanine cards (PMCs), as well as 3U CPCI products, computer-on-modules (COMs), and their related components.

Where Can FPGA Take You?

The USM’s open system standard can help extend functionality developed for one USM mezzanine card cross-platform to any of the other formats
In addition to programming flexibility, the downward spiral in costs and exponential increase in capacity and functionality of FPGAs have significantly contributed to their growing use. When compared to application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) technology, which had been the popular, albeit expensive choice for application-specific customization, FPGAs cost considerably less with more available flexibility in terms of upgrades and programming. Research and development costs for an ASIC can run into six figures, significantly impacting the necessary return on investment of systems, as well as the production and manufacturing cost requirements to bring a component into profitable operating range.

At the heart of FPGA technology are the IP cores, which reduce time to market and costs, two of the biggest issues with which a system designer must contend. IP cores are widely available from several manufacturers and can be developed by the designers as well.

As FPGA technology grows, so does the number and functionality of IP cores. MEN Micro alone has over 40 standard cores designers can access to eliminate time consuming, expensive board redesigns, and there are numerous other cores available from third party vendors. Additional information can be found at www.fpgacentral.com.