Digital signal processing (DSP) underpins a vast array of increasingly complex technologies. As complexity increases, system reliability is no longer solely defined by hardware platform reliability, but is increasingly determined by hardware and software architecture, development and verification processes, and the level of design maintainability. One fundamental architecture issue in DSP is the type of hardware platform, of which there are two main types: digital signal processors and field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs).

In the past, the use of digital signal processors was nearly ubiquitous, but the use of FPGAs is now growing rapidly. The comparison of digital signal processors to FPGAs typically centers on MIPS (millions of instructions per second). The focus of this white paper, however, is an advantage of the FPGA that is equally important and often overlooked: product reliability and maintainability.