Xilinx toolsuite simplifies use of algorithms

Xilinx toolsuite simplifies use of algorithmsRichard Ball Xilinx has introduced a development environment – Xilinx DSP – to simplify the execution of DSP algorithms on an FPGA. According to Ken Chapman, Xilinx’s applications specialist, the toolsuite will appeal to those engineers who, while interested in executing DSP tasks on an FPGA, have been put off because of the design effort involved (see EW, March 18). To address this issue, Xilinx has linked up with Elanix, which produces the high level DSPsimulation tool called SystemView. The tool, running on a PC, allows a DSP design to be created quickly by linking the desired function blocks selected from a screen menu. Such blocks include signal generators, multipliers, filters and mixers. Once the DSP algorithm is verified, it is made more attuned to the underlying FPGA architecture by defining the bit precision at each of the design’s processing blocks. “Using SystemView allows you to get the response you want with the minimal bit widths, and in a realistic time,” said Chapman. Once completed, Xilinx’s FPGA core generator takes over. It uses the output from SystemView and generates the various logic block components, which meet the desired processing performance. “Core generator creates the components with the quality of a hand done design,” said Chapman. Example blocks created by core generator include fast Fourier transforms, adders, sine/cosine look-up tables and finite impulse response filters. Core DSP… The design flow of Xilinx DSP, the development system for the XC4000X and Spartan series of FPGAs. A design is entered using the high level design tool SystemView. Its output is passed to the core generator software which produces the various hardware blocks. These are then combined and mapped onto the FPGA using the Foundation/Alliance tools. The blocks are combined with the other design components, interface logic or FIFOs for example, and passed to the Xilinx place and route tool for implementation on the FPGA. Xilinx DSP works with the company’s XC4000X and Spartan series of FPGAs. The XC4000 family, operating at 3.3V, is aimed at higher performance applications, and includes a device with up to 4,600 configurable logic blocks (CLBs) – the FPGA’s basic logic block comprising gates and flip-flops. The more recently introduced Spartan family is aimed at high volume/lower cost applications, operates at 5V and has devices with up to 784 CLBs.
Core generator comes free with Xilinx’s Foundation Base and Alliance Base FPGA software. SystemView costs ?1,520 ($2,495). FPGA for DSP:
benefits and applications

For most DSP designs using an FPGA, the device works alongside a programmable DSP. “It is typically used at a performance level where the processor begins to struggle,” said Chapman. Off-loading the more computationally intense tasks frees the DSP, allowing it to tackle additional processing tasks.
Applications using such a DSP/FPGA configuration include image and video processing, active noise cancelling and radio front end designs.

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