Altera Stratix DSP Performance Increases Over 500 Percent Using Soft Multipliers

9/10/2002 - Altera announced an innovative technique for increasing the DSP capability of its FPGAs by building fast, flexible multipliers out of on-chip memory. Using a patented technique for creating "soft" multipliers from StratixTM TriMatrixTM memory structures, the number of high-performance multipliers in a Stratix FPGA can be increased up to 500 percent. This technology delivers DSP bandwidth unmatched by any other available FPGA while allowing DSP designers to balance device resource utilization and performance.

Soft multipliers are ideal for multi-channel applications as well as multiplier-intensive functions common in communications applications such as echo cancellers, equalizers, multi-user detection, and beam forming. "Soft multiplier technology made Stratix FPGAs the best fit for our fixed broadband wireless application," said John Federkins, director of engineering at CoWave Networks. "After evaluating offerings from the leading programmable logic vendors, we determined that our fast-fourier transform would benefit most from the greater amount of on-board memory and soft multiplier flexibility available with Stratix FPGAs."

Soft multipliers are equal in performance to the existing embedded or "hard" multipliers provided by on-chip Stratix DSP blocks. DSP designers can use soft multipliers to augment hard multipliers. The largest Stratix FPGA, the EP1S120, offers 112 18x18 multipliers capable of running at 300MHz via the DSP blocks. Using soft multipliers increases this quantity to 612, three times the maximum number offered by competing FPGA vendors. In addition, soft multipliers can efficiently implement multiplier sizes that are resource-inefficient in hard multipliers, such as asymmetric multipliers or multipliers that are not easily scaled up from the hard multiplier configuration.

"In addition to fast, true-dual port memory access, Stratix TriMatrix memory blocks now deliver unprecedented multiplier performance, flexibility, and efficiency," noted Justin Cowling, director of Altera's intellectual property (IP) marketing. "Soft multipliers provide DSP designers with options and performance levels that are not available with any other DSP device offering, significantly increasing the value of Altera's reconfigurable DSP solution."

About Stratix Devices
Stratix devices are based on a 1.5-V, 0.13-micron, all-layer copper SRAM process, with densities ranging from 10,570 to 114,140 logic elements (LEs) and up to 10 Mbits of RAM. Stratix devices support various differential I/O electrical standards such as the LVDS, LVPECL, PCML and HyperTransport standards, as well as high-speed interfaces, including the UTOPIA IV, SPI-4 Phase 2, SFI-4, 10G Ethernet XSBI, RapidIO™, HyperTransport and other interfaces.

About CoWave Networks (
CoWave Networks is developing MeshCast, a wireless mesh technology that provides cost-effective coverage and eliminates the need for towers for fixed broadband wireless access operators serving small businesses and residences. MeshCast technology allows service to virtually every potential customer by its ability to repeat the coverage signal around obstacles. Service is provided by rooftop or window-mounted antennas.

About Altera (
Altera Corporation (NASDAQ: ALTR) is the world's pioneer in system-on-a-programmable-chip (SOPC) solutions. Combining programmable logic technology with software tools, intellectual property, and technical services, Altera provides high-value programmable solutions to approximately 14,000 customers worldwide.

Altera, The Programmable Solutions Company, the stylized Altera logo, specific device designations and all other words that are identified as trademarks and/or service marks are, unless noted otherwise, the trademarks and service marks of Altera Corporation in the U.S. and other countries.

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