FPGAs Provide Reconfigurable DSP Solutions

The growing digital signal processing (DSP) market includes rapidly evolving applications such as 3G Wireless, voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), multimedia systems, radar and satellite systems, medical systems, image-processing applications and consumer electronics. These applications cover a broad spectrum of performance and cost requirements. DSP processors are used for implementing many of these DSP applications. Although DSP processors are programmable through software, the DSP processor hardware architecture is not flexible. Therefore, DSP processors are limited by fixed hardware architecture such as bus performance bottlenecks, a fixed number of multiply accumulate (MAC) blocks, fixed memory, fixed hardware accelerator blocks, and fixed data widths. The DSP processor's fixed hardware architecture is not suitable for certain applications that might require customized DSP function implementations. FPGAs provide a reconfigurable solution for implementing DSP applications as well as higher DSP throughput and raw data processing power than DSP processors. Since FPGAs can be reconfigured in hardware, FPGAs offer complete hardware customization while implementing various DSP applications. Therefore, DSP systems implemented in FPGAs can have customized architecture, customized bus structure, customized memory, customized hardware accelerator blocks, and a variable number of MAC blocks. Despite these benefits, one reason FPGAs have not found wider acceptance in the DSP market is the absence of a viable C code-based design flow that does not require knowledge of FPGA architecture nor hardware description language (HDL). Historically, DSP programmers accustomed to software-based design face a design flow barrier when switching to an FPGA-based solution. However, Altera has introduced new design tools and hardware features that alleviate the design flow problem by incorporating a C code-based design-flow option that mirrors the traditional DSP design flow.

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