Computationally intense real-time applications such as Voice over IP, video over IP, 3G and 4G wireless communications, MP3 players, and JPEG and MPEG encoding/decoding require an integrated hardware/software platform for optimal performance. Parts of the application run in software on a general-purpose processor, while other portions must run on application- specific hardware to meet performance requirements. This methodology, commonly known as hardware/software partitioning or co-design, has caused an increasing number of software applications to be migrated to system-on-a-chip (SOC) platforms. FPGAs have emerged as the SOC platform of choice, particularly in the fastpaced world of embedded computing.

FPGAs enable rapid, cost-effective product development cycles in an environment where target markets are constantly shifting and standards continuously evolving. Several families of platform FPGAs are available from Xilinx. Most of these offer processing capabilities, a programmable fabric, memory, peripheral devices, and connectivity to bring data into and out of the FPGA. They provide embedded application developers with a basic hardware platform on which to build end applications, with minimal amounts of time and resources spent on hardware considerations.

Reprinted with permission from Xcell Journal / Third Quarter 2006. Article © Xcell Journal.