FPGA Technology and Software IP in Power Electronics Applications

Horses and FPGAs

Kevin Morris’ most recent article of FPGA and Structured ASIC Journal makes a very humourous but interesting analogy between FPGA vs ASICs design battle and the battle that occured not so long ago between car cars vs horses as a mean of transportation :

The new BMW 5-series sedan outperforms the horse and buggy in every important way. Your family will travel farther in a day and arrive less fatigued thanks to our superior cruising speed, climate-controlled cabin, and luxurious upholstery. It’s so much easier to use as well – no more hitching up the team before you start, and no more watering, feeding, and grooming at the end of the day. You just turn the key and drive away. Simple as that. So, before you snap up that new stallion you’ve been eyeing – consider a car instead.”

Morris’ article gets interesting at the end where he points out that applications that can benefit from hardware programmability are subject to profound change :

FPGA companies are defending against this attack, of course, by equipping their devices with both hard- and soft-core processors so that they can reap the advantages of software programmability as well. The outcome of that game, however, will probably be determined by the existence of design requirements that mandate hardware programmability – features where software cannot deliver the performance or power efficiency required. Designs with these sorts of requirements will remain in the sweet spot of FPGA, while general-purpose embedded platforms have a better-than-even chance of winning where software alone can do the job.”

This is obviously the case with power electronics applications.