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FPGA in Action – Benchmarking FPGA to Intel PCIe 10GE

We’ve previously discussed some of the considerations associated with a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) project.  Among our customers, one has gained significant benefits using FPGA as part of their raw material processing.

In their current scenario, a digital camera takes images of the raw material as a laser is running across the material’s surface. The images are analyzed, imperfections are noted, and the results of the calculations transmitted as numeric values via a 1GE network connection.  While the camera is taking images at nearly 5000 frames per second, because only the numeric results are being transmitted, the 1GE connection is sufficient.FPGA10Gb-small

Having seen the power of the data coming from this scenario, the company is looking to expand their application and receive the full images.  Given the significantly larger amount of data that will need to be transmitted, nearly 10 times what is sent in the current scenario, a much larger Ethernet bandwidth will be needed.  In both cases, the FPGA will be the interface to the Camera.

This drastic increase in data-flow requires that the data connection increase from 1GE to 10GE.  The increase in speed means that the 1GE Ethernet IP core currently used  in the FPGA is no longer adequate and an alternative solution must be found.  The proposed solution is to integrate the Xilinx FPGA with an Intel 10 GE PCI Express Ethernet IC. This is a cutting-edge solution, and to reduce the technical risk, bench-marking is being performed to show that the proposed method has the sufficient bandwidth necessary to meet the needs of the application.

In the proposed solution, the camera will interface to a custom designed board that runs a CPU, memory and FPGA, like the configuration in the first application. The addition of the 10GE PCIe IC will allow faster throughput of the images coming from the camera. Those images will be processed through the FPGA, into memory, through the CPU, and routed via the PCIe to the 10GE interrace IC.

The appropriate development of the device drivers, as well as selecting an operating system to port the Intel 550 chipset presents just a few of the many technical challenges.

Projects like this require a deep understanding of hardware, software, FPGA, networking, and embedded development;  skills which are typically not found with industrial design firms or contract manufacturers.  Like all of our projects, Resolution takes a holistic approach to analysis, focuses on the details, and understands and manages risk with innovative solutions to complex problems.

To learn more about Resolution Development’s creative approaches to outsourced product development, visit www.resolutiondev.com

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