FPGAs rise to challenge of bandwidth, says Altera CEO
With the rapid growth of devices such as smartphones, media tablets and digital TVs, and applications like mobile video and cloud computing, there is an expectation by consumers that they will have access to either wired or wireless broadband connections wherever they go, writes John Daane, president, CEO and chairman of Altera.
As a result, consumers are creating an almost insatiable demand for more and more bandwidth.
This bandwidth demand is a tremendous challenge for the communications infrastructure and is driving a fundamental shift in the industry.
Traditionally people have looked at how fast a system performs. With the growth of these devices and applications, we are moving out of a core centric world to a bandwidth and I/O centric world.
Clock frequency used to be the measuring stick of a system, but now it has shifted to how fast you can get data in and out of a system.
As a result there is a shift to serial interfaces such as PCI Express and Gigabit Ethernet across the entire infrastructure, and the importance of transceivers has been amplified.
Because these serial interfaces are spread across the entire communications infrastructure, from the core to the edge, a one size fits all transceiver solution is not practical.
At the core of the network where the largest amount of data is being processed at speeds of 10Gbit/s, 25Gbit/s and 100Gbit/s, you care mostly about performance. The more channels the better and you want the highest speed transceivers available to support it.
As you move out to the edge of the network, you care more about power consumption and require lower speed transceivers compared to the core.
But, just having a variety of transceiver speeds will not be enough to be successful in this market moving forward.
To be successful it will require flexible silicon solutions that can be quickly and easily programmed by the equipment manufacturers to include the right speed of transceivers, serial protocol interfaces and have the right power and performance profile for the application.
FPGAs are a perfect fit for these requirements and it is why you will see these devices continue to replace Asics and ASSPs in this market.