S2C's Virtex UltraScale Prototyping Provides Designers Much Needed Flexibility

Majeed Ahmad   Published on 05-18-2015 10:00 AM

The advent of large system-on-chip (SoC) designs has brought FPGA prototyping hardware into the limelight and the launch of S2C Inc.'s Single VU440 Prodigy Logic Module just shows how far off-the-shelf prototyping has come in a bid to complement hardware verification and software development. Hardware verification and software development tasks like OS integration and apps testing are two fundamental considerations in the mega-million-gate SoC designs from a cost standpoint.

The San Jose, California–based FPGA prototyping solution provider has released the Single VU440 Prodigy Logic Module that will support the latest Xilinx Virtex UltraScale 440 FPGA. Xilinx Virtex UltraScale VU440 is a 4 million logic cell programmable device that is equivalent to over 50 million “equivalent ASIC” logic gates. The Xilinx FPGA enables multicore prototyping of even the most advanced ARMv8-A architectures and thus can accelerate time-to-market for powerful SoC designs.

Xilinx Virtex UltraScale 440 FPGA allows multicore prototyping

S2C's Single VU440 Prodigy FPGA prototyping board for Xilinx Virtex UltraScale 440 FPGAs comes in a small form factor of 260 x 170mm and offers a number of add-on features. Moreover, it includes the Prodigy Player Pro Runtime Software feature that can be run on both Windows and Linux computers to perform basic functions such as FPGA download, write/read on-board SD card for off-line download, clock and reset set-up, I/O voltage settings, hardware monitoring and self-test.

S2C's new offering—fully integrated into the company's Prodigy Complete Prototyping Platform—displays a modular approach for managing the boards and design teams remotely via the cloud. The product showcases three prominent highlights that affirm S2C's claim of offering a complete prototyping platform: capacity, high-speed interfaces and enterprise-level could access.

SoC Design in the Cloud
S2C is probably the first company to take FPGA-based prototyping system to the cloud and its enterprise cloud access service is aimed to facilitate collaboration among geographically distributed SoC design teams, third-party IP vendors and foundry partners. The company's prototyping system with cloud-based access works through both Ethernet and USB links to enable remote management capabilities. The ability to download FPGAs remotely allows chip designers to reconfigure SoC at any stage of the design flow.

Cloud Cube is a multi-purpose platform for managing large SoC configurations

S2C's Single VU440 Prodigy Logic Module can be used in standalone or Cloud Cube enterprise modes. Cloud Cube is the company's enterprise-class prototyping system for supporting large-scale SoC designs. It allows up to 16 Single VU440 Prodigy Logic Modules to be configured in the cloud.

Memory and Gate-level Capacity
Sufficient memory and gate-level capacity are crucial in prototyping large and complex SoC designs where the number of processors and communication interfaces is constantly growing to keep up with system functionality. Single VU440 Prodigy Logic Module is twice as much dense than its predecessor—V7 Prodigy Logic Modules series—and boasts 20 percent more I/Os compared to the V7 series. Moreover, multiple Single VU Logic Modules can be conveniently connected together to expand the FPGA-based prototyping system capacity.

The growing number of SoC cores and peripherals demand more capacity and memory

Then, there are add-ons like DDR4 modules that can quickly create systems with multi-gigabyte memories and thus facilitate scalability and extensibility of the FPGA-based prototyping system. Released in 2014, DDR4 is one of the latest variants of DRAM memory and is faster than DDR2 and DDR3 technologies. The features such as DDR4 allow peripherals and processors on daughter cards to add various IP functionalities.

High-speed Interfaces
The next key highlight in the evolution of FPGA prototyping alongside the SoC rollercoaster is speed. Although, large FPGAs like Xilinx Virtex UltraScale VU440 have eased the design partitioning challenge, these devices come with large pin-outs that lead to big PCBs with a high number of interconnects. That leads to issues like signal routing, capacitive loading and impedance matching, which in turn, can slow down the prototype run.
So it's imperative that large prototype boards allow modular implementations and accommodate high speeds. S2C's Single VU440 Prodigy Logic Module provides eight general-purpose connectors for a variety of system interfaces and two GT connectors for high-speed serial connectivity. It comes with a built-in PCIe3 support for high-speed interfaces that run in the GHz range.

FPGA prototype board supports high-speed interfaces

S2C's prototyping board also features Player Pro Runtime Software that supports Virtual SWs & LEDs for simple tasks such as changing a setting or indicating a condition remotely. Furthermore, it automatically determines what daughter cards are installed on Logic Modules or cable setups between connectors.