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Guest

Thu Oct 18, 2018 4:45 pm   



I was wondering what the barriers are to new companies marketing FPGAs. Some of the technological barriers are obvious. Designing a novel device is not so easy as the terrain is widely explored, so I expect any new player would need to find a niche application of an unexplored technological feature.

Silicon Blue exploited a low power technology optimized for low cost devices in mobile applications. They were successful enough to be bought by Lattice and are still in production with the product line expanded considerably..

I believe Achronix started out with the idea of asynchronous logic. I'm not clear if they continue to use that or not, but it is not apparent from their web site. Their target is ultra fast clock speeds enabling FPGAs in new market. I don't see then showing up on FPGA vendor lists so I assume they are sill pretty low volume.

Tabula was based on 3D technology, but they don't appear to have lasted. I believe they were also claiming an ability to reconfigure logic in real time which sounds like a very complex technology to master. Not sure what market they were targeting.

Other than the technologies, what other barriers do new FPGA companies face?

Rick C.


Guest

Thu Oct 18, 2018 5:45 pm   



torsdag den 18. oktober 2018 kl. 17.22.47 UTC+2 skrev gnuarm.del...@gmail.com:
Quote:
I was wondering what the barriers are to new companies marketing FPGAs. Some of the technological barriers are obvious. Designing a novel device is not so easy as the terrain is widely explored, so I expect any new player would need to find a niche application of an unexplored technological feature.

Silicon Blue exploited a low power technology optimized for low cost devices in mobile applications. They were successful enough to be bought by Lattice and are still in production with the product line expanded considerably.

I believe Achronix started out with the idea of asynchronous logic. I'm not clear if they continue to use that or not, but it is not apparent from their web site. Their target is ultra fast clock speeds enabling FPGAs in new market. I don't see then showing up on FPGA vendor lists so I assume they are sill pretty low volume.

Tabula was based on 3D technology, but they don't appear to have lasted. I believe they were also claiming an ability to reconfigure logic in real time which sounds like a very complex technology to master. Not sure what market they were targeting.

Other than the technologies, what other barriers do new FPGA companies face?

Rick C.


I'd think patents and the huge task of making the software for it

Kevin Neilson
Guest

Thu Oct 18, 2018 7:45 pm   



On Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 9:22:47 AM UTC-6, gnuarm.del...@gmail.com wrote:
Quote:
I was wondering what the barriers are to new companies marketing FPGAs. Some of the technological barriers are obvious. Designing a novel device is not so easy as the terrain is widely explored, so I expect any new player would need to find a niche application of an unexplored technological feature.

Silicon Blue exploited a low power technology optimized for low cost devices in mobile applications. They were successful enough to be bought by Lattice and are still in production with the product line expanded considerably.

I believe Achronix started out with the idea of asynchronous logic. I'm not clear if they continue to use that or not, but it is not apparent from their web site. Their target is ultra fast clock speeds enabling FPGAs in new market. I don't see then showing up on FPGA vendor lists so I assume they are sill pretty low volume.

Tabula was based on 3D technology, but they don't appear to have lasted. I believe they were also claiming an ability to reconfigure logic in real time which sounds like a very complex technology to master. Not sure what market they were targeting.

Other than the technologies, what other barriers do new FPGA companies face?

Rick C.


I've always wondered. So many companies have entered and then departed, leaving the duopoly. I think it must be the problem of developing the tools. As poor as they are, I think that might be the biggest impediment. Every grand new idea seems to flounder in the face of what works. Most innovations from Xilinx itself seem to flounder. Does anybody really use partial reconfiguration, years and years after it was introduced? All the "high-level" synthesis tools are either defunct or should be defunct.

Kevin Neilson
Guest

Thu Oct 18, 2018 7:45 pm   



On Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 9:22:47 AM UTC-6, gnuarm.del...@gmail.com wrote:
Quote:
I was wondering what the barriers are to new companies marketing FPGAs. Some of the technological barriers are obvious. Designing a novel device is not so easy as the terrain is widely explored, so I expect any new player would need to find a niche application of an unexplored technological feature.

Silicon Blue exploited a low power technology optimized for low cost devices in mobile applications. They were successful enough to be bought by Lattice and are still in production with the product line expanded considerably.

I believe Achronix started out with the idea of asynchronous logic. I'm not clear if they continue to use that or not, but it is not apparent from their web site. Their target is ultra fast clock speeds enabling FPGAs in new market. I don't see then showing up on FPGA vendor lists so I assume they are sill pretty low volume.

Tabula was based on 3D technology, but they don't appear to have lasted. I believe they were also claiming an ability to reconfigure logic in real time which sounds like a very complex technology to master. Not sure what market they were targeting.

Other than the technologies, what other barriers do new FPGA companies face?

Rick C.


I'm not sure but I think Achronix dropped the whole asynchronous thing early on, making their name a minsnomer.


Guest

Thu Oct 18, 2018 8:45 pm   



On Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 2:41:32 PM UTC-4, Kevin Neilson wrote:
Quote:
On Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 9:22:47 AM UTC-6, gnuarm.del...@gmail.com wrote:
I was wondering what the barriers are to new companies marketing FPGAs. Some of the technological barriers are obvious. Designing a novel device is not so easy as the terrain is widely explored, so I expect any new player would need to find a niche application of an unexplored technological feature.

Silicon Blue exploited a low power technology optimized for low cost devices in mobile applications. They were successful enough to be bought by Lattice and are still in production with the product line expanded considerably.

I believe Achronix started out with the idea of asynchronous logic. I'm not clear if they continue to use that or not, but it is not apparent from their web site. Their target is ultra fast clock speeds enabling FPGAs in new market. I don't see then showing up on FPGA vendor lists so I assume they are sill pretty low volume.

Tabula was based on 3D technology, but they don't appear to have lasted.. I believe they were also claiming an ability to reconfigure logic in real time which sounds like a very complex technology to master. Not sure what market they were targeting.

Other than the technologies, what other barriers do new FPGA companies face?

Rick C.

I've always wondered. So many companies have entered and then departed, leaving the duopoly. I think it must be the problem of developing the tools. As poor as they are, I think that might be the biggest impediment. Every grand new idea seems to flounder in the face of what works. Most innovations from Xilinx itself seem to flounder. Does anybody really use partial reconfiguration, years and years after it was introduced? All the "high-level" synthesis tools are either defunct or should be defunct.


I actually begged Xilinx for partial reconfiguration for many years. What they eventually offered was so crappy that I never was able to use it... plus my need had gone by then.

No sure what you mean about "high level" synthesis. Are you talking about something above HDL? Is this graphical?

Rick C.


Guest

Thu Oct 18, 2018 8:45 pm   



On Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 2:42:46 PM UTC-4, Kevin Neilson wrote:
Quote:
On Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 9:22:47 AM UTC-6, gnuarm.del...@gmail.com wrote:
I was wondering what the barriers are to new companies marketing FPGAs. Some of the technological barriers are obvious. Designing a novel device is not so easy as the terrain is widely explored, so I expect any new player would need to find a niche application of an unexplored technological feature.

Silicon Blue exploited a low power technology optimized for low cost devices in mobile applications. They were successful enough to be bought by Lattice and are still in production with the product line expanded considerably.

I believe Achronix started out with the idea of asynchronous logic. I'm not clear if they continue to use that or not, but it is not apparent from their web site. Their target is ultra fast clock speeds enabling FPGAs in new market. I don't see then showing up on FPGA vendor lists so I assume they are sill pretty low volume.

Tabula was based on 3D technology, but they don't appear to have lasted.. I believe they were also claiming an ability to reconfigure logic in real time which sounds like a very complex technology to master. Not sure what market they were targeting.

Other than the technologies, what other barriers do new FPGA companies face?

Rick C.

I'm not sure but I think Achronix dropped the whole asynchronous thing early on, making their name a minsnomer.


I saw something that indicated they had a lot of push back from potential customers so that rather than letting them get access to it they somehow encapsulated it, but it's still there. The 1.5 GHz spec is still the same.

Rick C.

Theo
Guest

Thu Oct 18, 2018 8:45 pm   



Kevin Neilson <kevin.neilson_at_xilinx.com> wrote:
Quote:
I've always wondered. So many companies have entered and then departed,
leaving the duopoly. I think it must be the problem of developing the
tools.


Tools, patents, and X and A buying up competitors I suspect.

Quote:
Does anybody really use partial reconfiguration, years and years after it
was introduced? All the "high-level" synthesis tools are either defunct
or should be defunct.


Both are getting used in the push for FPGAs to become cloud accelerators (eg
Microsoft, Amazon, Intel). The application code (defined by some
middleware, eg OpenCL) is HLSed into some block which is
partially-reconfigured into an FPGA that's in the server running the cloud
app(s). The outer ring of the FPGA (memory controllers, networking, PCIe,
etc) stays the same, and different apps are partially reconfigured in and
out. Linux now has kernel support for this.

Theo

Kevin Neilson
Guest

Thu Oct 18, 2018 9:45 pm   



On Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 1:23:33 PM UTC-6, gnuarm.del...@gmail.com wrote:
Quote:
On Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 2:41:32 PM UTC-4, Kevin Neilson wrote:
On Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 9:22:47 AM UTC-6, gnuarm.del...@gmail.com wrote:
I was wondering what the barriers are to new companies marketing FPGAs. Some of the technological barriers are obvious. Designing a novel device is not so easy as the terrain is widely explored, so I expect any new player would need to find a niche application of an unexplored technological feature.

Silicon Blue exploited a low power technology optimized for low cost devices in mobile applications. They were successful enough to be bought by Lattice and are still in production with the product line expanded considerably.

I believe Achronix started out with the idea of asynchronous logic. I'm not clear if they continue to use that or not, but it is not apparent from their web site. Their target is ultra fast clock speeds enabling FPGAs in new market. I don't see then showing up on FPGA vendor lists so I assume they are sill pretty low volume.

Tabula was based on 3D technology, but they don't appear to have lasted. I believe they were also claiming an ability to reconfigure logic in real time which sounds like a very complex technology to master. Not sure what market they were targeting.

Other than the technologies, what other barriers do new FPGA companies face?

Rick C.

I've always wondered. So many companies have entered and then departed, leaving the duopoly. I think it must be the problem of developing the tools. As poor as they are, I think that might be the biggest impediment. Every grand new idea seems to flounder in the face of what works. Most innovations from Xilinx itself seem to flounder. Does anybody really use partial reconfiguration, years and years after it was introduced? All the "high-level" synthesis tools are either defunct or should be defunct.

I actually begged Xilinx for partial reconfiguration for many years. What they eventually offered was so crappy that I never was able to use it... plus my need had gone by then.

No sure what you mean about "high level" synthesis. Are you talking about something above HDL? Is this graphical?

Rick C.


I put "high level" in quotes because most of the high-level tools end up being very non-abstract if you actually want to meet timing. I'm talking about all the Matlab-to-gates, C-to-gates, and graphical tools like System Generator, etc. None have ever panned out. And even HDL still has to be used at a pretty low level.

There was also hardware-in-the-loop simulation (for example, using System Generator) and I don't know if that's still used by anybody or not.

gtwrek
Guest

Thu Oct 18, 2018 11:45 pm   



In article <5b57a396-9b89-4e42-b9fd-4662782bc801_at_googlegroups.com>,
Kevin Neilson <kevin.neilson_at_xilinx.com> wrote:
Quote:
I've always wondered. So many companies have entered and then departed,
leaving the duopoly. I think it must be the problem of developing the
tools. As poor as they are, I think that might be the biggest impediment.
Every grand new idea seems to flounder in the face of what works. Most
innovations from Xilinx itself seem to flounder. Does anybody really
use partial reconfiguration, years and years after it was introduced?
All the "high-level" synthesis tools are either defunct or should be
defunct.


The industry is certainly worse off because of the lack of competition.
Xilinx makes good technology, but their front end is simply awful. EDA is
hard. Trying to keep the "sell the hardware, give away the tools"
mentality has led the industry to accept an astonishly bad
"situation normal" solution. The echo chamber of these in house
developer's conversations must be deafening.

The amount of money and personel spent on developing in-house "free" EDA,
is likely staggering. And the hope of these "high-level" tools being
solved by a semiconductor vendor now when the entire EDA industry has
been attempting (and failing) to solve this problem for over 20 years? Nil.

The industry really needs more competion in this arena. Will it happen
with the two patent gorillas in the room? I don't see much...

Regards,

Mark

Kevin Neilson
Guest

Fri Oct 19, 2018 4:45 am   



On Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 9:22:47 AM UTC-6, gnuarm.del...@gmail.com wrote:
Quote:
I was wondering what the barriers are to new companies marketing FPGAs. Some of the technological barriers are obvious. Designing a novel device is not so easy as the terrain is widely explored, so I expect any new player would need to find a niche application of an unexplored technological feature.

Silicon Blue exploited a low power technology optimized for low cost devices in mobile applications. They were successful enough to be bought by Lattice and are still in production with the product line expanded considerably.

I believe Achronix started out with the idea of asynchronous logic. I'm not clear if they continue to use that or not, but it is not apparent from their web site. Their target is ultra fast clock speeds enabling FPGAs in new market. I don't see then showing up on FPGA vendor lists so I assume they are sill pretty low volume.

Tabula was based on 3D technology, but they don't appear to have lasted. I believe they were also claiming an ability to reconfigure logic in real time which sounds like a very complex technology to master. Not sure what market they were targeting.

Other than the technologies, what other barriers do new FPGA companies face?

Rick C.


I put a little more thought into this: what if I wanted to start an FPGA company? I could try to find an innovation or new niche, but that usually fails, partly because people don't want to migrate to something new. I sure don't.

Say I want to make regular FPGA. First I have to make the silicon, which is hard, but let's assume I use a regular architecture with 6-input LUTs and maybe some block RAMs and DSP multipliers. No processor cores or anything.. I wouldn't want to try to make my own simulator. I know FPGA companies try to make their own so customers can get a cheap version but I'd try to avoid that. I'd also farm out the synthesis as much as possible. I'd get Synplify to do that. I still have to make the place & route tool and timing analysis tools unless I can find somebody who is already doing that and can just have them adopt my architecture.

So now I have a pretty standard FPGA, and maybe some tools, but I still have to compete with the established duopoly and their marketing and distribution networks. Could I compete on price? I doubt it. I'm not sure anybody has a compelling reason to switch to me.


Guest

Fri Oct 19, 2018 5:45 am   



On Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 10:53:31 PM UTC-4, Kevin Neilson wrote:
Quote:
On Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 9:22:47 AM UTC-6, gnuarm.del...@gmail.com wrote:
I was wondering what the barriers are to new companies marketing FPGAs. Some of the technological barriers are obvious. Designing a novel device is not so easy as the terrain is widely explored, so I expect any new player would need to find a niche application of an unexplored technological feature.

Silicon Blue exploited a low power technology optimized for low cost devices in mobile applications. They were successful enough to be bought by Lattice and are still in production with the product line expanded considerably.

I believe Achronix started out with the idea of asynchronous logic. I'm not clear if they continue to use that or not, but it is not apparent from their web site. Their target is ultra fast clock speeds enabling FPGAs in new market. I don't see then showing up on FPGA vendor lists so I assume they are sill pretty low volume.

Tabula was based on 3D technology, but they don't appear to have lasted.. I believe they were also claiming an ability to reconfigure logic in real time which sounds like a very complex technology to master. Not sure what market they were targeting.

Other than the technologies, what other barriers do new FPGA companies face?

Rick C.

I put a little more thought into this: what if I wanted to start an FPGA company? I could try to find an innovation or new niche, but that usually fails, partly because people don't want to migrate to something new. I sure don't.

Say I want to make regular FPGA. First I have to make the silicon, which is hard, but let's assume I use a regular architecture with 6-input LUTs and maybe some block RAMs and DSP multipliers. No processor cores or anything. I wouldn't want to try to make my own simulator. I know FPGA companies try to make their own so customers can get a cheap version but I'd try to avoid that. I'd also farm out the synthesis as much as possible. I'd get Synplify to do that. I still have to make the place & route tool and timing analysis tools unless I can find somebody who is already doing that and can just have them adopt my architecture.

So now I have a pretty standard FPGA, and maybe some tools, but I still have to compete with the established duopoly and their marketing and distribution networks. Could I compete on price? I doubt it. I'm not sure anybody has a compelling reason to switch to me.


Yes, with the approach you describe, being the new, mediocre FPGA company, success is anything but assured.

I think the given is that there has to be something different about your devices or at least your approach. I donn't know if the Silicon Blue devices are as much different technologically or if they simply used conventional features with a different focus. I do know that when Lattice took them over they bent the - still in final development - iCE40 devices back toward the mainstream with higher speeds and losing a bit on the low static power. Not a big change, but interesting none the less.

Rick C.

HT-Lab
Guest

Fri Oct 19, 2018 10:45 am   



On 18/10/2018 19:41, Kevin Neilson wrote:
Quote:
On Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 9:22:47 AM UTC-6, gnuarm.del...@gmail.com wrote:
...snip

Rick C.

I've always wondered. So many companies have entered and then departed, leaving the duopoly. I think it must be the problem of developing the tools. As poor as they are, I think that might be the biggest impediment. Every grand new idea seems to flounder in the face of what works. Most innovations from Xilinx itself seem to flounder. Does anybody really use partial reconfiguration, years and years after it was introduced?


Yes of course, why do you think companies like Xilinx spend so much
money on developing it? Is it to make sure their developers are not
getting bored, they have money to burn or is it simply because their
high-end customers (clearly not you) require it?
If you work on a complex bit of IP which required physical synthesis,
hand placement etc to meet timing wouldn't you want a way to preserve
it? Do you think companies will simply re-synthesize, P&R and
re-validate the whole design (or IP block) again after making a small
change?

All the "high-level" synthesis tools are either defunct or should be
defunct.

Why should be defunct? Playing with Flipflops, shift registers, luts etc
is nothing more than assembly for programmable logic. There is nothing
more painful to discovered that your carefully hand-crafted RTL design
which you spend many man-years of effort on requires and extra pipeline
stage or you need to reduce resources as you are over resourced.
Wouldn't it be nice if you could write your design in sequential untimed
code and use a tool to generate the architecture for you based on
resource and timing constraints? There are some very successful HLS
tools (CatapultC, Stratus, Synphony) but given their price they are
mainly used by high-end companies (the so called 20%). Xilinx's Vivado
HLS is the exception as it is quite affordable but from what I
understand not as capable as the others. Yes I know it still requires
tweaking and FPGA/ASIC know-how but these tools are in full production
for many years and are used successfully by many companies. More and
more EDA supplier are starting to offer these tools, they can't be all
wrong, right?

Hans.
www.ht-lab.com

Kevin Neilson
Guest

Fri Oct 19, 2018 5:45 pm   



Quote:
Wouldn't it be nice if you could write your design in sequential untimed
code and use a tool to generate the architecture for you based on
resource and timing constraints?


Well, yes, it would be nice if such a tool existed. It doesn't. If it did, people wouldn't be paying me to make hand-pipelined designs. People wouldn't pay me to spend two months doing what I can model in Matlab in two lines of code.

Kevin Neilson
Guest

Fri Oct 19, 2018 5:45 pm   



On Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 9:48:47 PM UTC-6, gnuarm.del...@gmail.com wrote:
Quote:
On Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 10:53:31 PM UTC-4, Kevin Neilson wrote:
On Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 9:22:47 AM UTC-6, gnuarm.del...@gmail.com wrote:
I was wondering what the barriers are to new companies marketing FPGAs. Some of the technological barriers are obvious. Designing a novel device is not so easy as the terrain is widely explored, so I expect any new player would need to find a niche application of an unexplored technological feature.

Silicon Blue exploited a low power technology optimized for low cost devices in mobile applications. They were successful enough to be bought by Lattice and are still in production with the product line expanded considerably.

I believe Achronix started out with the idea of asynchronous logic. I'm not clear if they continue to use that or not, but it is not apparent from their web site. Their target is ultra fast clock speeds enabling FPGAs in new market. I don't see then showing up on FPGA vendor lists so I assume they are sill pretty low volume.

Tabula was based on 3D technology, but they don't appear to have lasted. I believe they were also claiming an ability to reconfigure logic in real time which sounds like a very complex technology to master. Not sure what market they were targeting.

Other than the technologies, what other barriers do new FPGA companies face?

Rick C.

I put a little more thought into this: what if I wanted to start an FPGA company? I could try to find an innovation or new niche, but that usually fails, partly because people don't want to migrate to something new. I sure don't.

Say I want to make regular FPGA. First I have to make the silicon, which is hard, but let's assume I use a regular architecture with 6-input LUTs and maybe some block RAMs and DSP multipliers. No processor cores or anything. I wouldn't want to try to make my own simulator. I know FPGA companies try to make their own so customers can get a cheap version but I'd try to avoid that. I'd also farm out the synthesis as much as possible. I'd get Synplify to do that. I still have to make the place & route tool and timing analysis tools unless I can find somebody who is already doing that and can just have them adopt my architecture.

So now I have a pretty standard FPGA, and maybe some tools, but I still have to compete with the established duopoly and their marketing and distribution networks. Could I compete on price? I doubt it. I'm not sure anybody has a compelling reason to switch to me.

Yes, with the approach you describe, being the new, mediocre FPGA company, success is anything but assured.

I think the given is that there has to be something different about your devices or at least your approach. I donn't know if the Silicon Blue devices are as much different technologically or if they simply used conventional features with a different focus. I do know that when Lattice took them over they bent the - still in final development - iCE40 devices back toward the mainstream with higher speeds and losing a bit on the low static power. Not a big change, but interesting none the less.

Rick C.


For some satellite work I used the Microsemi RTAX, which filled a niche for rad-hard designs. It was slow, had few gates, could only be burned once, and had poor tools, but still had a small market. They made up for low volume with high prices. I think they're still around. Since I work with a lot of Galois arithmetic, one thing I'd like to see is an FPGA with special structures for Galois matrix multipliers (instead of, say, DSP48s) and matrix transposers, but I don't think the demand is enough to warrant a special architecture.

Richard Damon
Guest

Sat Oct 20, 2018 5:45 pm   



On 10/19/18 12:39 PM, Kevin Neilson wrote:
> For some satellite work I used the Microsemi RTAX, which filled a niche for rad-hard designs. It was slow, had few gates, could only be burned once, and had poor tools, but still had a small market. They made up for low volume with high prices. I think they're still around. Since I work with a lot of Galois arithmetic, one thing I'd like to see is an FPGA with special structures for Galois matrix multipliers (instead of, say, DSP48s) and matrix transposers, but I don't think the demand is enough to warrant a special architecture.

Microsemi is still around (though part of Microchip now). They have a
number of FPGA families, that are somewhat distinct from the big two.

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