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Accelerate SoC Design: DIY, FPGA Boards & Commercial Prototyping Solutions (I)

Accelerate SoC Design: DIY, FPGA Boards & Commercial Prototyping Solutions (I)
by Daniel Nenni on 05-07-2024 at 6:00 am

In the early days, chip designers had to rely on time-consuming simulation results or wait for the engineering sample to validate whether the design meets its intended objectives. With the increasing complexity of SoC designs, the need to accelerate software development has also risen to ensure a timely entry to market.

In the pursuit of accelerating the verification process, FPGA prototyping has become an integral SoC development tool. FPGA prototyping capitalizes on the reconfigurability of FPGA logic and its flexible IOs, enabling a cost-effective and efficient means of validating designs when compared to simulation and emulation.

FPGA prototyping tools are generally made available from three sources: FPGA boards designed in-house by IC design companies (Build Your Own, BYO), evaluation boards sold by FPGA vendors, and commercial prototyping systems developed by EDA companies. With the rise of commercial solutions, FPGA prototyping now plays an important role of chip design and software development. This table compares the three types of FPGA prototyping.

BYO FPGA Development Board Commercial Prototyping System
Design size Suited for small & medium-sized designs. (Limitations on Large designs.) Suited for small-scale design/ softcore development/ specific protocol tasks, etc. Suited for various size of designs.
Reliability Low High High
Performance Medium Low High
Scalability Low Low High
Software Support/Ease of Use Low Low High
I/O Interface Need additional work to develop Restricted Wide range to choose from
Portability Low Low High
Remote system management Not provided Not provided Built-in
Technical Support Not support Limited support Support
Maintenance Not support Limited support Support
Time-to-Deployment Low Medium High
Overall Cost-effectiveness Low Medium High

While Do It Yourself (DIY) can provide a highly customizable “made-to-order” solution, such path would require design expertise spanning FPGA system development, PCB design, and manufacturing, making the process to be manageable only if the design size is small to medium-size or a large team is dedicated to the project; time and resources to conduct iterative testing to ensure stability and reliability is also a challenge. This challenge is not an issue for FPGA development boards from FPGA vendors as the boards are made in bulk; but the capacity offered by FPGA development boards are generally are more limiting, the boards cannot be combined to scale, and IO count and the IO interface selections are often limited.

In contrast, commercial prototyping systems, such as Haps from Synopsys and Prodigy from S2C, excel in capacity, scalability, and ease of use. With the high stability and quality support, commercial solutions provide an effective means to accelerate hardware verification and software development, and also enabling early customer engagements through functional SoC prototypes and demos.

Taking S2C’s solution as an example, the Prodigy FPGA prototyping offers a wide choice of models in single, dual, quad, and octa FPGA configurations and a large selection of daughter cards for fast time-to-deployment. With prototyping capacities ranging from small & medium sizes for IP verification and software development, to hyperscale designs targeting AI and 5G which need multiple systems cascaded together & partitioning support, S2C has it all covered.

S2C’s Prodigy Prototyping Solution

Logic System soc design

In the next post, we’ll dive deeper and explore the common problems encountered during functional verification and how S2C’s tools can be used to overcome these challenges.

Also Read:

Enhancing the RISC-V Ecosystem with S2C Prototyping Solution

2024 Outlook with Toshio Nakama of S2C

Prototyping Chiplets from the Desktop!

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