Altera's Cyclone FPGAs Take the Industry By Storm

9/24/2002 - In a move destined to take the semiconductor industry by storm, Altera introduced the CycloneTM device family-the industry's lowest-cost FPGA family. Based on a new architecture specifically designed for low-cost applications, Cyclone devices are priced as low as $1.50 per 1000 logic elements (LEs)-half the cost of competing low-cost FPGAs. For the first time, cost-conscious designers of high-volume systems in the consumer, communications, industrial, and automotive markets have access to the benefits of programmable logic at ASIC prices.

"Cyclone devices are the first FPGAs that offer the right density, features, and performance to rival ASICs for high-volume applications," said Peter Voldstad, senior design engineer, Polycom Video Conferencing Systems. "At these prices, we don't have to look at ASICs anymore."

Low Cost by Design
Breaking with the industry's tradition of reusing an existing architecture or re-branding an existing product to create a low-cost FPGA, Altera built the Cyclone device family from the ground up, using the same product-definition process that successfully yielded the StratixTM device family. Collaborating closely with more than a hundred customers around the world to define the new product's price threshold, features, density, and performance requirements, Cyclone devices include a focused set of features and are three times the density of previous low-cost FPGAs. More significantly, Cyclone devices have a 60 percent die-size reduction over previous architectures. John Daane, Altera's president and CEO stated, "Our goal is to give our customers a competitive edge-which to us means FPGAs targeted to specific applications. To achieve that, it is vital that they be involved in our product definition process," he stressed. "As a result, Cyclone devices have the right capabilities that enable designers of high-volume systems to consistently reap the benefits of programmable logic from prototyping into very high-volume production."

Advantage Over ASICs
FPGAs have historically found their sweet spot in high-bandwidth, high-performance applications where end products cost thousands of dollars. Designers of high-volume applications have traditionally turned to ASICs due to their cost effectiveness. However, the spiraling economics of designing ASICs-the high-cost of non-recurring engineering (NRE) charges and the uncertainty of end-market success-are rapidly favoring programmable logic. Long known for their time-to-market benefits, FPGAs have the advantage of being off-the-shelf customizable products that require no up-front costs and no minimum-order quantities.

"Demand in many markets is still in the process of re-balancing itself. At the same time, design cycle times for complex ASICs are not becoming more manageable. A low-cost FPGA device with relatively high-performance and small die size could not have been introduced at a more opportune time," said Richard Wawrzyniak, senior analyst at Semico Research Corporation. "Designers now have a new option that brings a programmable logic solution further within their cost and performance targets for cost-sensitive designs. Cyclone devices are going to change the way people look at programmable logic and what they can do with an FPGA."

Embedded Processor for Less Than $2.00
A single Cyclone device with multiple Nios® embedded processors can achieve designers' goal of reducing costs without sacrificing system performance. Consuming less than half the LEs of Altera's smallest density Cyclone device, which costs $4.00, the effective price for Altera's Nios processor is less than $2.00. A 32-bit Nios microprocessor and peripherals configuration consumes less than 1,400 LEs and delivers 50 Dhrystone MIPS (D-MIPS). Tim Colleran, vice president of product marketing at Altera said, "Cyclone devices, combined with our Nios processor, are clearly targeted to extend the system-on-a-programmable-chip (SOPC) technology to a whole new customer base that drives much higher-volume applications."

Cyclone Device Features

Pricing and Availability
The combination of Cyclone devices, Altera's extensive intellectual property (IP) portfolio, the free Quartus® II Web Edition design software, the Nios soft-core embedded processor, and Altera's new low-cost serial configuration devices delivers the lowest-cost, complete SOPC solution in the industry.

The Cyclone EP1C20 device will be available in Q1 2003. All family members will be in full production in the first half of 2003. Software support is available immediately with the Quartus II version 2.1 (service pack 1) design software. For customers that do not have an active subscription to Altera's tool suite, the Quartus II Web Edition software is available for free from Altera's web site, giving customers free access to the entire Cyclone device family.

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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