Embedding Xilinx FPGA technology into IBM ASICs to offer designers flexibility

JULY 19--IBM (East Fishkill, NY; www.ibm.com/chips) and Xilinx Inc. (San Jose, CA; www.xilinx.com) have signed an agreement that could help custom chip designers shave hundreds of thousands of dollars off the cost of creating future chips.

JULY 19--IBM (East Fishkill, NY; www.ibm.com/chips) and Xilinx Inc. (San Jose, CA; www.xilinx.com) have signed an agreement that could help custom chip designers shave hundreds of thousands of dollars off the cost of creating future chips. Under the agreement, IBM has licensed field-programmable-gate-array (FPGA) technology from Xilinx for integration into IBM's recently announced Cu-08 application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC). Cu-08 will support circuits as small as 90 nm--less than 1/1,000 the width of a human hair.

Engineers working on complex chip designs have been clamoring for ways to achieve high levels of integration while still having the ability to change "on the fly" late in the design cycle. Combining an FPGA with a standard ASIC gives these designers, all on one chip, the flexibility of the FPGA with the density, performance, and overall cost advantages of an ASIC.

"We've improved upon our delivery of programmable hardware by allowing reconfiguration using the same chip. Flexibility is the beauty of combining ASIC and FPGA technology," said Wim Roelandts, president and CEO at Xilinx. "Our latest agreement with IBM is a natural extension of and a significant milestone in our existing relationship that allows us to address new opportunities in the high-end ASIC market."

Even after the custom chip is in an OEM's product, the manufacturer of that product can add to its function, doing so simply, easily and effectively either using on-chip resources or a traditional programming approach. A good example would be in the communication industry, where various protocol and interface specifications are constantly evolving. Cell phones, printers, set top boxes, and other consumer electronic products also are well suited to this new approach.

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