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ElectronicDesign Article: Not Your Father’s FPGAs Anymore

By June 21, 2018May 12th, 2021No Comments

FPGAs, like GPUs, have changed significantly from their initial inception that took a narrower view of the solution space. They’ve morphed from a collection of gates and routing to taking on jobs that range from communications to artificial intelligence (AI).
Soft-core processors have been common since FPGAs appeared. Some vendors had their own optimized soft-core processors, such as Intel and its NIOS II and Xilinx with its MicroBlaze. There are a number of third-party cores for processors, like the venerable 8051 and Arm’s Cortex-M1. The latter tended to provide more mobility between FPGAs compared to the proprietary soft cores from FPGA vendors, which were optimized for their FPGA hardware.
Enter RISC-V. RISC-V is actually an open-source instruction set standard. However, it leads to hardware implementation, including those on FPGAs. This approach has been spearheaded by Microsemi’s Mi-V FPGA ecosystem. RISC-V is available for most FPGA platforms, in addition to showing up in RISC-V-based SoCs as well as GreenWaves Technologies’ multicore GAP 8 SoC for machine-learning applications.
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