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Utilizing AXI for Early Design Stage FPGA Prototyping | ARM

Utilizing AXI for Early Design Stage FPGA Prototyping | ARM Oct 30, 2014

Rob van Blommestein, S2C Inc.  2014-10-29 18:51:00 S2C

FPGA-based prototyping has typically been used during late stage design for system validation and software development. FPGA-based prototypes closely resemble final silicon chips in speed and accuracy, providing significant value in full-chip validation and early software development. Realizing these benefits of FPGA prototyping late in the game, however, can have serious repercussions – finding bugs far too late in the process delaying software implementation even further. In a tight competitive environment, missing the prescribed time-to-market window can be disastrous. 

Designers using the AXI protocol to map their designs to FPGA-based prototypes can avoid these late-stage pitfalls. By utilizing a communication bridge that enables designers to read and write data from computers to their AXI-FPGA mapped designs, designers can easily implement algorithm validation, block-level prototyping, full-chip simulation acceleration, corner case testing and early SoC software development much earlier in the design stage dramatically reducing the verification bottleneck. 

S2C's ProtoBridge™ technology is the only one of its kind to allow for this early communication and design exploration methodology. ProtoBridge AXI consists of a computer software component and a FPGA design component. The computer software component contains Linux/Windows drivers and a set of C-API/DPI routines to perform AXI transactions. The FPGA design component contains a PCIe, an interconnection module and AXI transactors to be instantiated in users’ design-under-test (DUT). Users can read and write at speeds of up to 500 megabytes per second through the PCIe interface, connect 8 Master devices and 8 Slave devices on the AXI bus, and take advantage of the patent pending Shared Memory technology that links the FPGA prototype with third party design tools.

Fulhan Microelectronics has been using the ProtoBridge AXI technology for their video surveillance chips and system solutions. Specifically, their high-performance H.264 Video Encoder was designed and verified with this technology. The video streams were too large to delay testing toward the end of the design and verification stages. Instead, ProtoBridge was used to successfully transfer the video streams to and from the design blocks mapped on FPGAs to finish testing early in the block design stage shortening the H.264 project design cycle.

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