Microsemi heads for the mainstream with next generation flash FPGA

October 08, 2012 // By Nick Flaherty
Microsemi is aiming to take on Xilinx and Altera in mainstream industrial and safety-critical applications with a new generation of its SmartFusion flash-based FPGA.

SmartFusion 2 provides twice the performance of the previous generation with a potential  100x reduction in power and will be price competitive with Xilinx's Spartan and Altera's Cyclone devices, said Esam Elashmawi, vice president and general manager at Microsemi. "This radically changes how we use FPGAs in secure applications," he said. "Pricing will be comparable to what's out there today and the performance is in line with Cyclone and Spartan."

The power reduction comes from a move to 55nm embedded flash process and using design techniques frrom the Igloo low power family of devices.

The first SmartFusion 2 device has 50,000 look-up tables (LUTs) and a 166MHz ARM Cortex-M3 processor core and consumes just 1mW in 'freeze' mode and 10mW in sleep mode. The freeze mode holds the state of the device and can dramatically reduce power in low duty cycle applications such as battery power wireless sensors where the device can be shut down most of the time.

The new family also adds PCI Express generation 2 blocks and DSP blocks for the first time as well as CAN, USB2.0 and Ethernet interfaces.

A wide range of security features such as encryption blocks, key management, secure boot and 'route of trust' applications will be offered in a higher price version of the devices to make both terminals and communications links more secure.

“Our new SmartFusion2 SoC FPGAs are designed for challenging safety-critical applications in industrial, defense, aviation, communications and medical applications where it is imperative for devices to operate reliably and flawlessly,” said Elashmawi. Microsemi already has over 1000 FPGAs in every Airbus A380. “Our SmartFusion2 devices have the differentiated features required to ensure secure and reliable operation with extremely low-power consumption. These next-generation devices also feature higher densities and industry standard interfaces that allow us to address a much wider range of mainstream applications as safety-critical becomes more and more important in other areas."

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