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FPGA Judgment Day: Rise of Second Generation Structured ASICs

Authored on: Nov 20, 2007 by Narinder Lall

Technical Paper

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The last 15 years have seen a decline in the number of cell-based application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) designs used for developing customized systems-on-a-chip (SoCs). Rising NREs, development times, and risk have mostly restricted the use of cell-based ASICs to the highest-volume applications.

The FPGA was intended to fill some of the gap left by cell-based ASICs, yet after more than twenty years of existence and with 40 times more design starts per year, the size of the FPGA market in dollar terms remains only a fraction that of cell-based ASICs. This suggests that there are many FPGA designs that never make it into production and that the FPGA is still seen by many as a vehicle for prototyping or education. It may be that the FPGA has even stifled industry innovation.

This paper introduces a new technology, the second generation Structured ASIC, that is poised to re-energize innovation in the electronics industry. It brings together some of the key advantages of FPGA technology and cell-based ASIC technology to deliver a new platform for SoC design.

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