What is an FPGA: characteristics and usefulness of this module

It is not a term widely used in the day-to-day of computing in general, but the truth is that in the professional sector it is taking on a fundamental importance. Therefore, today we will know in depth what an Intel stratix 10 FPGA is and the applications they have in the industry, as well as their characteristics.

What is an FPGA?

FPGA is the acronym for Field Programmable Gate Arrays and is nothing more than a series of semiconductor-based devices based on configurable logic block matrices or CLBs, where they are also connected through what in the sector is called programmable interconnections. Their main feature and advantage is that they can be reprogrammed for a specific job or change their requirements after they have been manufactured. The inventor of this technology was Xilinx, which has evolved this technology to become a new concept to take into account in certain work environments.

FPGA: devices of a programmable nature

The interesting thing about this type of device is its countless applications today since its technical characteristics can be focused on sectors such as Aerospace, Audio, Automotive, Broadcast, Electronics, Data centers, High performance computing, Industrial and medical. Its costs are much lower and its development time is considerably reduced compared to other very popular options such as ASICs. Even so, the market is currently focusing on three very clear sectors that are gaining momentum in recent years – data centers, AI and advances to improve processors.

Main features

The main characteristic of an FPGA is flexibility. This is given by its nature, where an engineer could download a file for a specific FPGA and modify its behavior by making changes to said file. This section also implies that in many cases physical changes can be made without making costly modifications to the board that supports it.

The second characteristic that FPGAs carry is acceleration. When we talk about acceleration we have to define three totally different scenarios: manufacturing, design and acceleration itself. FPGAs are very simple to build and are sold out of the box, which means a reduction in the total time of a company. On the design side, an OEM can ship an FPGA as soon as its initial design is finished and tested, which again saves companies time. FPGAs are helping processors through information upload and download accelerations, thereby increasing system performance.

FPGAs are becoming more complete and complex

The next main point is integration since nowadays an FPGA can include RAM, processors, DSP engines and an endless number of individual systems for the same matrix. Each year they increase in complexity, where they could rival a basic system in terms of complexity and raw power. The last point is your costs. The cost of ordering new systems for specific tasks must be taken into account. With a good FPGA, these tasks can be programmed to take advantage of its power, which reduces costs significantly. With an FPGA it would not be as problematic as with an ASIC. FPGAs have many options to be more and more famous in the industry.