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Microsemi Targets Cost-Optimized Markets with New FPGA Family

by Stephen Entwistle | Jun 19, 2013

Microsemi’s ProASIC and IGLOO range of FPGAs acquired via the Actel acquisition, though limited in terms of logic density, established the company’s FPGA offerings with a strong reputation for low static power coupled with inbuilt security. The IGLOO 2 family (see www.microsemi.com/igloo2-fpga) looks to build on Microsemi’s introduction of the company’s SmartFusion 2 SOC FPGAs in 2012 while maintaining an emphasis on low power and security.

This will allow Microsemi to tap into an estimated $1.2 billion market opportunity for “cost-optimized” FPGAs  targeting the Industrial, Wireless Infrastructure, Wireline Infrastructure and Defense & Security markets with FPGAs suitable for applications that require a blend of performance with low-cost and low power consumption, typically requiring up to 150K LE (logic elements). Microsemi believes this sub-segment of the market is underserved with current competitor offerings from Altera, Lattice Semiconductor and Xilinx typically driving customers to purchase larger count devices because of a limited range of products. To counteract this status quo, Microsemi is introducing seven products with logic elements ranging from 6K to 150K that are designed to incorporate a number of benefits over competing offerings. This includes the highest number of mainstream FPGA features such as general purpose input/outputs (GPIOs), 5G SERDES interfaces, and PCI Express endpoints.

Applications in the defense sector being targeted include communications, smart missiles and UAVs and the company highlighted a number of benefits that IGLOO 2 brings to this sector. In the area of tactical radios, for example, the high speed GPIO connects with the ADCs and DACs, while the in-built DSP and mainstream fabric can be used for baseband processing. Built-in security with DPA (differential power analysis) countermeasures hardened in the devices means that no external machines can get access to otherwise restricted system secrets and capabilities of the device. This potentially enables radio designs that no longer need a separate INFOSEC chip.

Power consumption is another major consideration in the design of defense hardware such as tactical radios. As a starting point, the IGLOO 2 FPGA family requires only two power supplies, versus three for competitive devices. Further reductions in power consumption are achieved by virtue of a Flash*Freeze real-time power management mode which allow the IGLOO 2 devices to draw 10 times lower static power than comparable FPGAs when operating in standby mode. The FPGAs can also be completely shut down and feature an “instant-on” capability.

Reliability is another area in which Microsemi believes the IGLOO 2 product range will offer advantages over competitive solutions. This builds on Microsemi’s SEU immunity due to a flash-based FPGA fabric and also the ability to operate at extended temperatures up to 125C. A built-in high-performance memory subsystem (HPMS) includes monolithic embedded SRAM memory blocks to provide fast, predictable low latency to time critical embedded applications such as video, embedded graphics functions and real time Ethernet. Included in the HPMS is up to 512Kbytes of flash memory which allows users to store pertinent system data such as Ethernet MAC IDs, user keys, system configuration and system personalization data. This feature also enables secure boot functions for industry leading processors by storing secondary boot loaders securely on-chip. In addition, the HPMS integrates two DMA controllers and a two-port memory cache (DDR bridges) to efficiently move data within and in-and-out of IGLOO2 to external DDR3 memories for embedded time critical applications.

Microsemi’s new family of IGLOO 2 FPGAs appear to be positioned well to target a range of small form factor applications in the defense sector including tactical radios, HUDs, thermal imaging, missile systems and more with security, reliability and performance attributes coupled with a “cost optimized” approach to maximise total cost of ownership in a budget constrained environment.

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Steve

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