BittWare Anemone processor could make FPGAs as popular as general-purpose processors in embedded computing

By John Keller

Posted by John Keller .

One of the biggest raps against field-programmable gate arrays for digital signal processing is the complexity of the FPGA. To use these powerful-but-frustrating devices, systems designers must be adept in the arcane VHSIC Hardware Description Language (VHDL), as well as in hand-coding to achieve the most efficient performance. Using FPGAs is like a throwback to the old days of programming ASICs in assembly language to squeeze out the most performance possible.

As a result, many designers shy away from using FPGAs when they can, and opt instead for digital signal processing (DSP) architectures based on general-purpose processors like the 2nd Generation Intel Core i7 and on the new breed of graphics processing units (GPUs) like the NVIDIA CUDA. Using the GPP/GPU architecture for DSP-intensive floating-point processing, proponents argue, is easier and faster to market because the software can be written in high-order languages like C and C++, rather than the difficult VHDL.

Much of the reluctance to use FPGAs in DSP applications may be changing, however, with the introduction today of the FPGA/Anemone architecture from BittWare Inc. in Concord, N.H. Anemone is a floating-point co-processor that is programmable in the standard C computer language, which has the potential to make FPGA-based processors as easy and quick to use as the GPP/GPU architectures are becoming.

BittWare's new Anemone/FPGA architecture, which is based on Altera high-performance FPGAs and the Adapteva Epiphany processor, is designed for floating-point embedded computing applications like radar processing, software-defined radio, electronic warfare, and signals intelligence.

I think we'll be hearing a lot more about the Anemone/FPGA architecture in the future.

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

December 2013
Volume 24, Issue 12
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