Posts Tagged ‘SoC’

Learning Through Examples

In Education, Embedded Systems on October 24, 2014 at 6:08 PM

I am a big supporter of the “learning through examples” paradigm. Not only it makes the concept clearer, it also leaves an impression in a learner’s mind about the method and the tools used. Over the past couple of months, I have been preparing course slides for an undergraduate course in reconfigurable computing. I have also been preparing laboratory exercises for the students enrolled in the course. I have found it a lot easier to explain important concepts and tool flows using examples. Students have found it to be better than slides which have very few examples or are very abstract (leaving the instructor to fill in a lot of details orally during the lecture).

A good friend of mine, Adam Taylor, has been writing a series of blog for Xilinx’s Xcell publication. The blogs have focused on using the Zynq platform from Xilinx. Zynq programmable SoC combined the strengths of an ARM processor with programmable logic. In fact it has two ARM processors coupled with programmable FPGA fabric. His blog has covered in detail how to use the MicroZed board which features a Zynq SoC. Complete with screen-shots and step by step instruction, those articles will be useful to anyone interested in trying out this new kind of FPGA. Those articles are now also available in a single PDF document for easy reference. The document can be downloaded here.

Embedded system design using both a FPGA and a processor is a complex exercise and any tutorial that makes the concepts and the tool flow easier to understand is always helpful for engineers.

The Unlikely Places for Electronics Hardware Work

In Embedded Systems, Science & Technology Promotion and Public Policy on June 28, 2014 at 11:27 PM

The world is always changing and big data is changing it in even newer ways. Till a few years ago, no one would have thought that data crunching companies and software companies would get involved in electronics hardware design work. However, that is the case today. Microsoft is building programmable chips and hardware to speed up its Bing search engine (see here  and here). Amazon just released its own smartphone (see here). Companies like Google and Facebook which would typically use custom off the shelf hardware to build their datacenters are now getting involved with real hardware design in order to make their datacenter more power efficient and increase their performance (see here and here). If one were to look at the career openings in these companies, one can find openings for people with electronics or computer hardware design.

On the other hand, if one were to look at companies like IBM, Cisco, Oracle etc. the number of openings in these areas are comparable to those at Google etc. It is no surprise that some industry watchers have begun to wonder if IBM is trying to become Google and Google trying to become IBM. There was a time when IBM did tremendous amount of computer hardware related work, but that is not the case today. A lot of its activities involve work with software.

While companies like Marvell, ST Microelectronics, Infineon etc. continue to work in the hardware domain and supply parts to different players in the electronics ecosystem, companies like Amazon etc. have emerged as the dark horses in this space. They may not be as diverse as Infineon etc. but they are very focused on what they want to do and what they want to offer. Their direction of work is very customer oriented and involves product design which many people like to get involved with.

FPGA Based Prototyping

In Design Methodologies on March 24, 2011 at 10:31 PM

FPGA based prototyping is commonly used for prototyping ASIC designs. It is also being used increasingly for early verification of SoC design. This prototyping approach gives the opportunity to test and establish proper functionality of SoC software even before the actual SoC is taped out. SoC trend has clearly shown that software forms a major chunk of SoC design and hence it is even more essential to ensure its functionality as early as possible so that time to market can be met quickly. Synopsys and Xilinx have together released a book titled FPGA-Based Prototyping Methodology Manual which is available here. The book provides in detail the prototyping methodology as well as a few case studies. It also covers partitioning for multi-FPGA designs.