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what is FPGA?:Unlocking the Power of FPGA

ByMithila kumanjana

Oct 11, 2023

FPGAs, or Field Programmable Gate Arrays, are semiconductor devices comprising an array of gates, mainly AND and OR gates. By combining these gates, consumers can craft custom logic circuits without limitations. For instance, if you need to create sequential logic like a flip-flop or a combinational logic circuit like a decoder, FPGAs are your tool of choice. These differ from typical microprocessors or CPUs, as they don’t primarily focus on memory elements.

what is FPGA

If we contemplate the question, “What is FPGA?” it implies that we are dealing with Field Programmable Gate Arrays, which essentially consist of arrays of logic gates. By combining logic gates (AND, OR, NOT, etc.), we can generate a sequence of new logic, for example, a AND b AND c OR d.’ Subsequently, this logic can be implemented within the FPGA through hardware modifications.

For instance, if we intend to create a 7-segment LED display based on 4-bit values, traditional software logic necessitates the creation of logic for each input, followed by storing this logic in memory and executing it line by line in accordance with the CPU clock speed. However, in an FPGA, we can establish hardware logic, and the output logic is automatically selected based on the input, eliminating the need to scrutinize each logic line individually.

Here, all the logic checks occur in parallel, resulting in zero latency within the FPGA.

what is FPGA

What is the difference between an FPGA and a CPU/microprocessor?

what is FPGA
zero latancyneed time to execute the logics
related to space domaintime domain
Customizable hardware for specific tasks(high-speed signal processing)General-purpose computing(ex.calculation)
Parallel processing capabilitySequential execution of instructions
No fixed instruction setFixed instruction set
Often more expensiveEconomical for general tasks
Requires hardware description language(Verilog,VHDL)Programming languages and OS(c, AVRc, assembly…)
Longer development time(need create hardware and software design)Faster development for software(only customizable in software)
Highly dependent on the designTypically optimized for speed

Essentially, an FPGA consists of a set of inputs. Logic can be created based on these inputs, and the output can be obtained. In most cases, an FPGA cannot be used independently; it needs to be connected to a CPU or microprocessor, linking to existing systems such as main server computers or primary microcontrollers.

Some FPGA packages, like the Zynq 7 series, come with an integrated microprocessor. This combination is referred to as an SoC (System on a Chip), allowing for the creation of a complete system within a single chip. In this kind of system, the programmable logic part within the FPGA is called PL (Programmable Logic), and the processing system is referred to as PS (Processing System). In many instances, ARM microprocessors like ARM Cortex-A9 are integrated into the systems.

what is FPGA

what is FPGA use cases?

  • FPGAs offer low-latency execution, allowing the creation of complex and parallel combinational logic circuits.
  • Aerospace and defense applications benefit from radiation-tolerant FPGAs with intellectual property support for image processing, waveform generation, and partial reconfiguration for Software-Defined Radios (SDRs).
  • ASIC prototyping harnesses FPGAs for rapid and precise System-on-Chip (SoC) system modeling and embedded software verification.
  • The automotive industry utilizes FPGAs for silicon and IP solutions in gateway and driver assistance systems, as well as in-vehicle infotainment.
  • Broadcast & Pro AV leverages FPGAs to adapt quickly to changing requirements, extending product life cycles, and developing solutions for high-end professional broadcast systems.
  • Consumer Electronics benefits from cost-effective FPGA solutions for next-generation applications, including converged handsets, digital flat panel displays, home networking, and residential set-top boxes.
  • Data Centers optimize performance with FPGAs designed for high-bandwidth, low-latency servers, networking, and storage applications, enhancing cloud deployments.
  • High Performance Computing and Data Storage rely on FPGAs for solutions in Network Attached Storage (NAS), Storage Area Network (SAN), servers, and storage appliances.
  • Industrial applications benefit from AMD FPGAs and targeted design platforms, offering flexibility, faster time-to-market, and lower non-recurring engineering costs for tasks such as industrial imaging, surveillance, and automation.
  • The medical sector uses Virtex FPGA and Spartan FPGA families for diagnostic, monitoring, and therapy applications, meeting various processing, display, and I/O interface requirements.
  • Security solutions provided by AMD address the evolving needs of security applications, encompassing access control, surveillance, and safety systems.
  • Video and Image Processing applications make use of AMD FPGAs and targeted design platforms for flexible, quick time-to-market solutions in various video and imaging applications.
  • Wired Communications employs end-to-end solutions with FPGAs, particularly in Reprogrammable Networking Linecard Packet Processing, Framer/MAC, serial backplanes, and more.
  • Wireless Communications utilize FPGAs for RF, baseband, connectivity, transport, and networking solutions in wireless equipment, adhering to standards like WCDMA, HSDPA, WiMAX, and others.

Summary of what is FPGA?

Actually, FPGA represents a modern type of programmable logic. There were various programmable logic devices (PLDs) that existed before the advent of the FPGA, such as PAL and PLA ( history of FPGAs). Ultimately, we can conclude that FPGAs hold a significant place in the electronic domain because they allow for the creation and adjustment of hardware configurations with ease through programming. One well-known software package for FPGA development is Vivado. This is the explanation of “What is FPGA?”

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