A Word About FPGA-Based Prototyping

Complexity and time to market are making software-based SoC design technology a requirement.


With software now driving the main capabilities of embedded devices, prototyping has taken the spotlight in SoC design. This is turning a once-hardware-centric electronics supply chain upside down. To cope with this new reality, companies are embracing both virtual and physical prototyping technologies.

Physical prototyping, also known as FPGA-based prototyping, is an important piece of an end-to-end prototyping strategy. It has long been used by electronics companies as a way of accelerating software development, hardware and software integration and system validation, due to its ability to connect to a real-world environment and perform realistic scenarios. The ability to perform system validation helps to ensure standards compliance and determine if performance goals can be met. And most important, the connection with real world I/O can trigger behavior inside the SoC hardware or software that would have otherwise been overlooked.

But with growing SoC complexity and time-to-market pressure, there also is a need to accelerate prototype bring-up while achieving higher system performance and better debug. This is where an integrated FPGA-based prototyping solution really shines. Tight integration of prototyping hardware and software can significantly reduce time to first prototype. In Synopsys’ most recent announcement, that means less than two weeks with configurations up to 1.6 billion ASIC gates.

What’s important to note here is how this technology has evolved. It now can leverage multiple FPGA chips with automated pin multiplexing, and debug capabilities are built in. The result is that it can capture thousands of RTL signals, and it can save months of design and verification bring-up time when used in conjunction with simulation and emulation.

The value of deploying an end-to-end prototyping solution cannot be overstated. The ability to leverage both virtual and physical prototyping for early architecture exploration, software development and test, hardware-software integration and system validation, is a major time saver in SoC design. In short, the future of SoC design is in software-driven SoC solutions, and major progress is being made to make that a reality.

More information about Synopsys’ approach can be found here.