Altera Penetrates Embedded Processor Market with Nios II

5/19/2004 - The runaway success of the first-generation Nios® embedded processor has taken Altera Corporation (NASDAQ: ALTR) places that just five years ago were inconceivable for an FPGA vendor. While the first-generation Nios processor opened the door to new applications and markets for Altera, the Nios II embedded processor family promises to significantly advance the company’s opportunities in the 16-bit and 32-bit embedded processor markets, targeted to reach over $11-billion in 2007. From fish finders and engine testers using the Altera® low-cost CycloneTM FPGA family, to video image processing and advanced communications systems using the high-performance Stratix® family, Altera’s soft-core embedded processor has been a driving force in establishing programmable logic in new applications.

With more than 13,000 development kits shipped to date, thousands of designers around the world have selected the Nios embedded processor for its ease-of-use and flexibility, making it the most popular soft-core processor in the industry. Embedded designers can easily create custom processor-based systems using the SOPC Builder system development tool, part of Altera’s Quartus® II design software. This is one of the reasons why the Nios processor was named one of EDN magazine’s Hot Products of 2003, and has had a strong showing in CMP’s Embedded Processor Survey over the last two years.

“The huge success of the first-generation Nios processor provided access to thousands of active developers who helped define and shape the Nios II processor family,” said Jordan Plofsky, senior vice president of Altera’s application business groups. “As a result, Nios II processors now deliver mainstream performance, more efficient logic utilization, robust development tools, and positions the new family in a broad range of embedded applications.”

In addition to building a processor that can deliver over 200 DMIPS of performance, Altera made two key strategic decisions in the development of its new embedded processor family. The first was to focus solely on developing soft-core processors. Unlike hard implementations of a processor core in an FPGA fabric, a soft-core implementation gives designers complete flexibility in choosing the number, and performance characteristics of the processor(s) used, and allow processors to be used in the entire spectrum of FPGA families and device densities. Additionally, a soft-core implementation also allows for easy software and design upgrades, which means the processor never becomes obsolete.

Recognizing the fact that processors are usually the domain of software developers, Altera’s second strategic decision was to provide a robust set of tools for the software developer to support complex applications development, debug, and deployment. This is a significant advantage compared to competitive solutions from other FPGA and embedded processor vendors.

The flexibility of the Nios processor and ease-of-use of its development tools allows customers, across a broad range of applications, to reduce their development time. When implemented in Altera's low-cost Cyclone FPGAs, customers have a compact, low-cost processor that offers greater integration, a smaller overall form factor, lower power consumption, and flexibility not available in any other solution. Nios designs targeting Altera's Stratix series of FPGAs offer customers a high-performance solution that can address many wireless infrastructure, image processing, and other high-bandwidth applications. Designers of high-density applications can lower their cost for volume production by migrating to Altera’s HardCopy® structured ASIC solution to reduce system cost and boost system performance.

“The microprocessor has become ubiquitous by increasing performance and decreasing cost,” said Dr. Nick Tredennick, Editor of the Gilder Technology Report. “Altera’s FPGAs build on the same momentum with the Nios II soft-core embedded processor. The performance of the Nios II soft core, combined with the flexibility offered by more than 60 peripheral choices, makes Altera FPGAs suitable for a wide range of embedded applications that were once considered the domain of ASSPs and ASICs.”

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. More information is available at

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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