Component obsolescence is an issue that impacts virtually every industry, especially those with products that have long life cycles, such as automotive, industrial, military, aerospace, and medical. The biggest investment in any embedded system is the application software. Unless you also own the hardware design, your software investment is always vulnerable to processor obsolescence.
Using offerings from Altera's embedded portfolio, however, you don't have to worry about processor obsolescence. These soft processors feature perpetual-use licenses and can be targeted to any Altera® FPGA. If the underlying FPGA hardware changes, you can still maintain your application software investment. The processors also are supported by an array of industry-leading operating systems, which makes it easy for you to reuse your application code.
Our embedded portfolio includes:
- Altera Nios® II processor
- ARM® Cortex-M1 processor
- Freescale V1 ColdFire processor
- MIPS®-compatible MP32 processor
- ARM® CortexTM-A9 MPCoreTM-based Cyclone® V SoC FPGA and Arria® V SoC FPGA
Learn more about obsolescence pitfalls and how you can protect your software investment.
Product life cycles are becoming shorter while new processor architecture development, based on the latest silicon process technologies, is longer than ever. Therefore, processor vendors must support multiple generations of end products and create processor families that address a wide range of needs. Each processor family might contain multiple packaging options, speed grades, and feature sets. Inevitably, some processor variants are discontinued sooner than others.
Even if your processor does not reach end of life, you might face availability issues. If your processor is one of the less popular variants, availability can become a long-term issue.
Obsolescence costs you time, money, and development resources.
- Porting application software—Software is usually the most costly part of a redesign. The thousands of man-hours spent on developing applications for a specific architecture must be retargeted to another processor, validated, and tested.
- Processor qualification—Thousands of hours can be spent qualifying a new part that meets the requirements of your current and future designs.
- Opportunity cost—While you are addressing the obsolescence problem, your development team is not able to work on new products. Additionally, switching to a new processor may require learning new tools and design flows, further reducing your team’s productivity.
- Board redesign—Redesigning your board not only costs money, takes time, and uses valuable engineering resources, but it also introduces risk.
- Last-time buy options—Processor vendors might give you the option for a last-time buy, requiring you to forecast future demands with little or no safety net.
- Phasing in new product—The costs of phasing in a redesigned product are significant, impacting service, logistics, and field resources. Furthermore, customer relationships may be negatively impacted if this process results in down time.
All silicon is eventually discontinued, and FPGAs are not immune to that. However, by designing with a soft processor your software investment is protected in many ways.
- No need to port application software—Because the processor is soft, it is implemented as a hardware project that can easily be migrated to another Altera FPGA device while maintaining the same application code.
- Application code reuse—With industry-leading operating system support, you can easily reuse your application code.
- No need to requalify a new processor—Because the processor hasn’t changed, you do not need to spend the time and effort requalifying a new device.
- Minimal lost opportunity cost—By keeping the same design tools, design flow, hardware design, and application software, your lost opportunity cost is minimized.
- Board redesign—In the worst-case scenario where your current FPGA is not available, you might need to redesign your board. However, design risk is significantly reduced because the entire hardware design is intact and only the device and pin connections change.
- Last-time buy options—Last-time buy options are not an issue when you can easily migrate to a newer Altera FPGA device.
- Phasing in new product—Phasing in a new product is always a challenge. However, if you design your system with an Altera FPGA, upgrading your system simply involves a flash update that can be performed remotely, as opposed to a hardware replacement. This minimizes customer down time and field service costs.
Read a white paper where the Nios II processor is used to combat obsolescence: A Flexible Architecture to Drive Sharp Two-Way Viewing Angle and Standard LCDs (PDF).
- Scale system performance to meet your needs
- Improve your productivity
- Reduce your system costs
- Establish a competitive advantage with flexible hardware