Xilinx's tools strategy supports its latest FPGAs

Xilinx EDA buy to boost 28nm sales

Programmable logic vendor invests in design software to ease customers into its latest technology.

The company has bought AutoESL Design Technologies, which provides high-level synthesis tools used in developing video, wireless and high-performance computing applications on programmable logic.

Xilinx will use the AutoESL software to promote sales of its 6 and 7 series FPGAs and its new 28nm ARM-based Extensible Processing Platform. The deal was announced at the start of DesignCon, one of the year’s main semiconductor system events.

"Xilinx has incubated high-level synthesis technology for many years," said Vin Ratford, its senior vice president of worldwide marketing. "In 2006, we launched our ESL initiative with a goal to help the industry improve quality of results, simplify and abstract design flows, establish interoperability and improve embedded processing flows.

"Recently, we commissioned an independent study to evaluate high-level synthesis tool offerings. Based upon benchmarks conducted by BDTI as well as Xilinx Research Labs, it was clear that the quality of results from [AutoESL’s software] AutoPilot matched or exceeded hand-coded RTL for data path-intensive and DSP designs.”

Promoting ESL adoption is important to Xilinx as a way of making customers feel more comfortable developing products for advanced process nodes, as it allows a greater abstraction of the design flow and reduces their need to address all the technological challenges new nodes present. The company says AutoESL will help customers move to its newer devices without lengthening their time-to-market.

FPGA vendors’ increasing participation in the design software space has generated tensions between them and traditional EDA vendors, particularly as the FPGA companies discount their tools to encourage sales of silicon, reference designs and other services.

FPGA margins are heavily dependent on the aggressive adoption of new manufacturing technologies that offer greater yields and volumes, so the programmable logic companies’ response to these tensions is that much of the burden to deliver the initial infrastructure that speeds their adoption falls on their shoulders.

Terms of the AutoESL acquisition were not disclosed.

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