Supported by:

Embedded Computing

Next Event


Mos Days Hrs

8 June 2022

10am - 5pm

9 June 2022

10am - 4pm

LV Convention Center

Supported by:

Embedded Computing

8-9 June 2022

LV Convention Center

Using FPGAs for demanding applications

This blog was provided by Orthogone


Wherever you see incredibly fast, leading-edge technology like autonomous driving, electronic trading, and satellite communications, look for FPGAs. The processing capabilities, massive bandwidth, and energy efficiency of FPGAs is allowing designers to create increasingly high-performance solutions for many market segments and industries.

In this article we’ll explore what you need to know about deciding when and where to use FPGAs:

How the FPGA landscape is changing rapidly

Pros and Cons of FPGAs

How different industries are using FPGAs in high-performance applications

•Aerospace & Defense
•Telecommunication Infrastructure
•Data Centers (HW Acceleration)
•Automotive (ADAS and AD)
•When to Use FPGAs or CPUs


How the FPGA landscape is changing rapidly
Look at what’s happened in just a few years:

•In December 2015, Intel bought Altera for $16.7B making it its largest acquisition ever
•Microsoft is now using FPGA in its data centers
•Amazon is offering FPGAs on their cloud services
The global FPGA market in 2019 was valued at $9B and is projected to grow near 10% CAGR over the next 7 years.

The January 2020 article Could FPGAs Outweigh CPUs in Compute Share? from says, "According to Xilinx CTO, Ivo Bolsens … FPGAs won’t just gain incremental momentum, they will put the CPU out of work almost entirely. ‘In the future you will see more FPGA nodes than CPU nodes. The ratio might be something like one CPU to 16 FPGAs,’ Bolsens predicts, adding that it’s not just a matter of device numbers, ‘acceleration will outweigh general compute in the CPU."

Pros and Cons of FPGAs
When an application requires a lot of information to be processed quickly, FPGA solutions offer higher performance compared to standard CPUs. Although the use of standard CPU platforms is still the most flexible option, in some demanding applications the use of FPGA solutions is fully justified.


The main reasons for using FPGAs instead of CPU-based solutions are:

•Low Latency
FPGAs can compute and process data extremely rapidly.
FPGAs have massive I/O bandwidth and can continuously process huge amount of data thanks to their parallelism capabilities.
FPGAs are used to execute algorithms at hardware-level processing speeds with the flexibility to change the algorithms in milliseconds.
•Energy efficiency
In some applications, FPGAs will provide some significant energy savings over traditional CPU-based solutions.

How do FPGAs deliver such high performance? As explained in The Principles of FPGAs on electronic, "Unlike processors, FPGAs are truly parallel in nature. Each independent processing task is assigned to a dedicated section of the chip. Therefore, the performance of one part of the application is not affected when more processing tasks are added."

Spider chart comparing CPU and FPGA


Despite all the advantages, there are factors that limit the use of FPGAs on a larger scale:

FPGA solutions are still generally significantly more expensive than solutions based on standard CPUs.
Limited developer resources
It can be difficult to program FPGAs using RTL languages (Verilog, VHDL) given the limited number of developers possessing this expertise.

The High-End FPGA Showdown series (part 3 Design Tools – Where it All Begins) on states, "Engineers with software-only backgrounds often fail to appreciate the complexity involved in using these devices and the long learning curve required to gain enough proficiency to use FPGAs near their capability…Taking full advantage of FPGAs requires digital logic to be designed, and, despite decades of progress, we are not yet at the point where FPGAs can be optimally used without at least some degree of hardware expertise in the design process."

To overcome these challenges, the two main FPGA manufacturers, Xilinx and Intel, are trying to democratize access to FPGAs by offering design tools that allow FPGAs to be programmed using more standard programming languages, such as C, C++ and Python, accessible to a larger pool of developers.

And, there is a growing ecosystem of solutions available that allow developers to accelerate development times without having to reinvent the wheel. Some vendors now offer complete framework solutions that integrate multiple FPGA modules (cores) along with software drivers and libraries enabling system developers to focus their development on their applications and differentiators.

How different industries are using FPGAs in high-performance applications
FPGAs have been deployed at massive scale in data centers, military and aerospace applications, telecommunication infrastructure, healthcare, and now in ADAS and autonomous vehicles.

Which applications are best suited to use FPGAs? We’ll provide a few examples for each of these key verticals:

•Aerospace & Defense
•Telecommunication Infrastructure
•Data Center (HW Acceleration)
•Automotive (ADAS and AD)

Aerospace & Defense

The aerospace and defense market is generally less sensitive to cost compared to consumer applications, making FPGAs even more likely to be adopted by manufacturers in this segment.

Examples of Aerospace & Defense FPGA applications:

Phased array RADAR and satellite communication systems must be capable of processing and computing an enormous quantity of data in real time, which makes them ideal examples of good uses of FPGAs. Phased array technology uses an arrangement of antenna elements where the relative phase of each element is varied to steer the radiation pattern. This architecture requires massive I/Os bandwidth as well as high-performance Digital Signal Processing (DSP) capabilities, which can only be realized using a hardware solution such as FPGA.
Missile guidance systems and other military applications use FPGA for low latency.
Electronic warfare systems and secure communication systems such as network encryptors and wireless radios use FPGA technologies to take advantage of high throughput processing capabilities and re-configurability.

Find out how programmable 4G technology was leveraged into FPGA and Network Processors to develop high-capacity multichannel, multiband, point-to-point (PTP), point-to-multipoint (PMP) and mesh radio systems used in public safety and defense applications in this case study.


Telecommunication Infrastructure

As we enter the 5G communication era, the next generation of wireless technology will present huge opportunities for businesses, industry, and consumers.

We’re seeing 5G communication offering multiple capabilities, including

•ultra-fast data rates
•ultra-low latency
•massive device connectivity

To overcome complex technical issues and continuously evolving standards, Xilinx’s latest FPGAs (Versal™) have been used by Samsung to build a universal, flexible, and scalable platform that can address multiple operator requirements. In this example, FPGAs are used to provide

•required bandwidth
•low latency performance
•optional re-programmability as the 5G radio standards evolve and new features get released
In the long run, manufacturers of 5G commercial base stations are likely to eventually replace FPGA devices by converting them into ASIC devices. Such conversions will generally provide power consumption improvement and huge cost reduction savings for commercial base station manufacturers.


To read more, please click here.



Get your FREE tickets today!