Advanced vs. Established Process Geometries
Is 20nm the Forgotten FPGA Node?
28nm is a calm, mature node. Sure, everyone was excited when it was the first to reach modern price, performance, and cost levels. We applauded when ARM processing subsystems were integrated into 28nm FPGAs, creating a new class of device. And there were accolades when 28nm debuted interposer-based 2.5D packaging techniques. There is even a nice page in the scrapbook where 28nm SerDes transceivers hit 28Gbps speeds - a nice 28/28 symmetry that made everyone feel all warm and fuzzy.
We all know and love 28nm. It’s out there - proven and in full production, making our real-world designs really work today. It’s great! You really can’t go wrong with any of Xilinx’s or Altera’s robust 28nm offerings - from cost-optimized, higher-volume Kintex and Arria chips up to the biggest, fastest, most feature-laden Virtex-7 and Stratix V devices, 28nm FPGAs have you covered.
New Equipment for the “1X” Process Nodes
We’re shrinking again. We’re moving past the 20-nm node into the 16 or 14 realm (depending on how you or your marketing team counts it). In fact, according to KLA-Tencor, some companies are skipping the 20-nm node altogether and moving directly into the teens.
It’s always been the case that new nodes spur new tools, but there are some trends underway at 16/14 that are more than just “smaller,” and they are providing yet more challenges to the semi equipment guys.
Tools for Building
3D NAND probably provides the biggest change, and it introduces a new layer cake onto the wafer. For those of you that are new to 3D NAND, Applied Materials (AMAT) provides a simple description of what it consists of: tipping a string of bits on end.
Model-based Design and Physics-based Acceleration
In this week's Fish Fry, we're taking the wheel, putting the pedal to the metal, and riding off into the EE sunset. My first co-pilot in the Fish Fry bucket seat is Noam Levine. Noam navigates us to a special place called Model-based Design. We discuss how this design methodology can help move your next design into the fast lane where you might even bypass a prototyping stage or two. Next up in our fast flying EE road trip is a saunter down Semiconductor Lane with Tom Flynn of Coventor. Tom and I investigate physics-based acceleration and check out how you can get your MEMS motor running in zero-to-sixty.
UCSB Team Achieves >99% Reliability
With most of the articles I write, I try to do more than just parrot what someone else said: I really try to understand what it is I’m writing about, at least to some degree.
Not today, folks.
Not even close.
Today we go behind the looking glass into the world of quantum computing. I’m going to try to give a flavor of what I’ve learned in order to understand what’s significant about the news coming out of the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), but I’m not even going to try to pretend that I really know what I’m talking about.
What if it Happened Again?
We sit here in our dazed, progress-drunk technology buzz looking back at the half-century rocket ride that transformed not only our industry and engineering profession, but also all of modern civilization. Nothing in recorded history has had as much impact on the world as Moore’s Law. It has re-shaped global culture, dramatically altered politics, and even affected fundamental aspects of the ways human beings work, think, feel, and relate to each other. If this weren’t the single biggest change driver in the history of civilization, it was right up there with democracy, monotheism, combining caramel and chocolate, and some other really heavy-hitters. Innovation in electronics has spilled over into just about every other aspect of our collective lives, and the change is profound.
But, what if it happened again - not in electronics this time, but somewhere else?
To answer that question, we should look at what caused Moore’s Law in the first place. It was a single innovation, really. Just one idea.
Are FPGAs Harbingers of a New Era?
The title may have put you off. In fact, it probably should have. After all, most of us in the press/analyst community have - at one time or another during the past decade or two - been walking around like idiots wearing sandwich signs saying, “The End is Nigh!” And, we got just about as much attention as we deserved. “Yawn, very interesting, press and analysts, and now back to planning the next process node…”
It gets worse. Predicting that Moore’s Law will end is pretty much a no-brainer. It’s about as controversial as predicting that a person will die… someday. There is obviously some point at which the laws of physics and the reality of economics will no longer allow us to double the amount of stuff we put on a single chip every two years. The question is - when will we reach that point, and how will we know we are there?
Lattice's iCE40 Ultra and Xilinx at
Bienvenido a Fish Fry! Welcome to this week’s field programmable Fish Frying festivities. First to join the podcastin' party is Joy Wrigley from Lattice Semiconductor. Joy and I discuss how FPGAs are breaking into the IoT scene and why low power will make all the difference in tomorrow’s mobile designs. Joining the fun next is Barrie Mullins from Xilinx. Barrie and I chat about how Vivado is playing a bigger role in this year's X-fest and why this conference isn't just for FPGA designers.
Movidius Camera Processor Helps Drones As Well As Doctors
Video surveillance, CCTV, camera-toting drones, cellphone video, stoplight cameras – they’re everywhere! It seems as though no public space isn’t being recorded, filed, uploaded, and possibly analyzed for malfeasance. The common factor in all these scenarios is digital cameras.
And what do all digital cameras need? Lots of storage, lots of bandwidth, and lots of processing power. Grabbing frame after frame of unrefined, uncompressed video isn’t interesting. You need to massage the video before it’s useful. That means some combination of white balance, edge detection, smoothing, compressing, artefact reduction, and possibly image recognition. That’s a lot of work on a lot of pixels, in very little time.
Education Meets High Tech
This week Fish Fry is all about technological innovation in education. From kindergarten to college, from Malaysia to Texas, we look into recent technological advances that aim to even the educational playing field in the United States and across the globe. My first guest is Scott McDonald (Rorke Global Solutions). Scott unveils Rorke’s new digital learning system and discusses with me how Rorke was motivated to break ground on this high tech education revolution. (We also throw in some basketball trash talk.) Keeping with our education theme, Silicon Cloud International CEO Mojy Chian joins Fish Fry to explore the future of cloud computing and how Silicon Cloud International's educational cloud centers hope to create a whole new generation of chip designers.