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Archive for the ‘prototyping’ Category

Emulation in FPGA

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

For many years, emulators were available only to verification teams working on the largest projects in companies with deep enough pockets. Due to size rather than capabilities they were called “Big Box” emulators and typically were used in order to recover some of the time lost on RTL simulation. Meanwhile, FPGA technology has been available long enough to mature to the point where FPGA based emulation became available – and I’m not talking here about FPGA prototyping.

“Emulation – Prototyping, aren’t they just synonyms?”

Sure, they are not. The most significant differences between FPGA usage in prototypes and in emulation are shown in table 1.

 

Prototyping

Emulation

Clock frequency

10-200 MHz

1-20 MHz

Clock Topology

Multiple asynchronous sources – limited number of domains

Derived from emulation core clock – unlimited number of domains

Speed Limitation

Fixed,
Determined by Inter-FPGA signal multiplexing

Adaptive,
Determined by FPGA-to-Host Comms, Inter-FPGA signal multiplexing

Stimulus Source

In-System, Real-world IO

Host,
Connection with simulators, virtual platforms, virtual models and other testbenches

Signal Capture

Selected Nodes

Full Visibility

Memory Models

Near-match to physical

Modelled

Design Setup

Computer aided but with extensive user’s input and decisions

Fully automated

Table 1: Typical differences between FPGA usage in prototyping and emulation

FPGAs are the fastest platform for prototyping, but we can also harness that speed into our verification environment, then we can achieve runtime performance 2x to 5x faster than traditional “big box” emulation systems, and all at a fraction of the cost per gate per MHz.

“FPGAs are way too small for our SoC design, aren’t they?”

In the HES-US-2640 board, Aldec already has the largest capacity single FPGA boards commercially available today. Connecting 4 such boards in a backplane gives you 24 largest Xilinx UltraScale chips in which you can implement 633 Million ASIC Gates and still have 40% of capacity margin to facilitate FPGA Place & Route.

Figure 1: Scalable HES platform for prototyping & emulation

Not all designs need such excessive capacity, especially IoT projects, where the primary requirement is small footprint and energy-safe design. You will find the proper configuration in Aldec HES boards versatile portfolio containing Virtex-7, Virtex UltraScale and Kintex UltraScale based hardware.

 

For the rest of this article, visit the Aldec Design and Verification Blog.

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