The business of FPGAs

One of the most important inventions in the history of technology finds its roots back in 1985 when the first FPGA was created. Ross Freeman, an American electrical engineer is attributed to have developed the first FPGA and was the inventor and co-founder of the leading FPGA developer Xilinx.

In June 1, 2015, Intel and one of the biggest companies dealing in integrated circuits, Altera, announced that Intel would acquire it at a value of roughly $16.7 billion. This has since hastened the revolution of FPGAs that have become more efficient than earlier technologies.

What is an Altera FPGA? The abbreviation FPGA stands for ‘Field-Programmable Gate Array’. An FPGA is a device which is initially a semi-conductor but is able to be manipulated and programmed after it has been manufactured. This feature of FPGAs allows the user to get the best out of the devices by programming them and making them usable and compatible with other devices as per the user’s needs. FPGAs are not fixed to one single hardware function and are thus flexible to configuring to other applications and softwares, test one out at Direct Components Inc.

Altera FPGAs are different form Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASICs) and Application-Specific Standard Parts (ASSPs) because FPGAs can be configured through their programmable nature to execute any digital functions required. FPGAs also allows the user to execute a large amount of data therefore there is fast processing of data.

There are a wide variety of Altera FPGAs. Cyclone FPGAs, Arria FPGAs, Stratix and MAX FPGAs are the main variety series in the market.

Cyclone FPGAs come at the lowest cost and are the lowest power FGAs. These are used when there is need for high-volume applications. They are also suitable where applications might be expensive because this type of FPGAs cut the cost. These FPGAs can be used alone as digital signal processors.

Arria FPGAs are the mid-range FPGAs with transceiver speeds of up to 3.125 Gbps. They have better power and performance that Cyclone FPGAs. They also come at a fair cost for mid-range applications for example remote radio heads. They have a number of of functions like memory and logic. They can be used in devices that support protocols like Gigabit Ethernet.

Stratix FPGAs comes in its own series too, namely Stratix II, III, IV and V. They are the highest bandwidth FPGAs that have a rich feature set and are suitable for high-end applications. They solve the problem of poor signal integrity as they provide transceivers with jitter features. They are the ideal FPGAs for prototyping and verifying standard-cell ASICs.

MAX FPGAs have a series that includes MAX ll, Max V and MAX 10. The main series MAX 10, are also low-cost FPGAs that are non-volatile and have advanced processing abilities. They also provide instant-on dual configuration with analog-to-digital converters. They are suitable for high-volume applications like automotive.

According to a research by Grand View Research Inc, it is expected that the FPGA market to grow at a CAGR of 9.1 % from the year 2014 to 2020. This means that the Altera FPGA industry is yet to experience much growth that will enable better inventions in the future years.