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Xilinx – The Innovator of Field-Programmable Gate Arrays


Xilinx Spartan

After working for the IC manufacturer Zilog Corp Ross Freeman, Bernard Voderschmmitt, and James V Barnett II decided to start Xilinx. At the time manufacturers were producing massive volumes of generic circuits. Xilinx had the idea to create circuits that could be tailored to individual market segments. These circuits would come to be known as FPGA or a field-programmable gate array.

The circuits could be configured by a customer after manufacturing. The company grew exponentially after selling their first FPGA. Revenues were $30 million in 1988 by 1990 revenues were $100 million. By 1995, only a decade after selling their first FPGA, Xilinx recorded $550 million in revenue. Today Xilinx leads the programmable logic market with 51 percent market share. Their closest competitor Altera controls only 34 percent of the market for programmable logic.

This year, 2014, Xilinx released its series 7 family of FPGA’s under the product names Kintex-7, Artix-7, and Zynq-7000. The Kintex – 7 is the first line of mid-range FPGA’s from Xilinx. The Kintex family is available as a high performance circuit with 12.5 Gbit/s or a low cost option that features 6.5 Gbit/s serial connectivity, memory, and logic performance. The Kintex delivers the performance of the Virtex-6 family of parts while consuming 50 percent less power.

Compared to the old Spartan-6 family of products the Artix-7 operates with 50 percent less power and saves 35 percent in costs. The artix-7 is designed to replace low-cost FPGAs, ASOCs, and ASSPs that currently serve the market. The artix-7 is designed for use in battery-powered devices such as portable ultrasound equipment, commercial digital camera lens control, and military avionics and communications equipment.

Finally the Zynq-7000 family of SoCs, System-on-chip, is for use in high-end embedded-systems, for example video surveillance, automotive-driver assistance, next-generation wireless, and factory automation. The Zynq-7000 integrates a complete Cortex-A9-processor-base 28 nm system. The current FPGA-centric platform is revised to a processor-centric model and will act the same as a standard ARM processor based system-on-chip. The Zynq-7000 is used on the AXIOM which is the first digital cinema camera that utilizes open source hardware.

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