Actel unveils time saving desktop FPGA debugging & diagnostic tool; Deterministic approach slashes design verification time.
"In the fast-paced industries which utilize FPGAs, time-to-market is critical," said Rhondalee Rohleder, President of the market research firm, Pace Technologies. "Being first to market with a particular product can result in significant revenue gains during a product lifetime."
Silicon Explorer will shorten an FPGA design cycle by eliminating time-intensive and indeterminate design re-layout or static verification methodologies. Instead, circuit designers seek and identify design defects through Silicon Explorer's real-time internal node access capability. Using this "in-circuit" monitoring debug methodology, designers can observe node activities in real-time without affecting timing, loading and fanout.
"For years, designers have wanted to debug their complex ICs, including FPGAs by observing internal circuit activity. Now, using Silicon Explorer and Actel FPGAs, designers can literally see everything that's happening inside the chip and in real-time. This is truly unique. No other programmable device or debugging methodology can accomplish this," explained Michael Saniei, Actel's Software Product Line Manager.
Designed for debugging both Actel's antifuse-based FPGAs and SRAM-based SPGAs, Silicon Explorer also supports configuration download of SRAM devices as well as eliminating the need for repeated time-consuming EPROM programming during the device prototyping step.
"As gate counts increase and designs incorporate more intellectual property (IP) blocks, fast isolation of design defects have become a critical component of the design cycle," Saniei said. "Silicon Explorer provides unique capabilities that helps customers get new products to market faster."
The Silicon Explorer tool suite includes ProbePilot, a high-speed signal acquisition hardware interface between the Actel FPGA, the board on which the FPGA resides, and the designer's desktop computer; Explore, an easy-to-use point-and-click software tool that is integrated with Actel's Designer Series development software; and Analyze, a PC-hosted logic analyzer that graphically displays the waveforms accessed through ProbePilot.
The ProbePilot signal acquisition control takes advantage of Actel's ActionProbe circuitry, a patented architectural feature included in all Actel devices that provides 100 percent observability of internal nodes from selected external pins. ProbePilot supports 18 separate probing channel and features high-speed 100 MHz asynchronous or 66 MHz synchronous sampling rates. ProbePilot connects directly to any desktop or laptop computer, or workstation, though the serial port and operates off of the test board's 5.0 volt or 3.3 volt power supply.
The Explore windows-based software drives the entire diagnostic and debug process and resides on the designer's PC or workstation as part of Actel's Designer Series FPGA development tools.
The Analyze software tool essentially turns the designer's PC or workstation into a full-featured 18 channel logic analyzer, eliminating the need for a costly stand-alone logic analyzer.
"Early tests have show that Silicon Explorer can cut debug time from six weeks to less than one week. For instance, a LAN equipment designer was taking an eight hour day to complete one debug cycle using SRAM-based FPGAs. Seven hours of that time was spent recompiling the design just to get access to internal nodes so they could view it dynamically. Using Actel's Silicon Explorer, the designer can access each internal node immediately without recompiling the design," Saniei explained.
Price and Availability
The Silicon Explorer package is priced at $1,295 (U.S.) list. Silicon Explorer Lite, packaged without the Analyze PC-hosted logic analyzer, is priced at $495 (U.S.) list. The product is currently undergoing beta testing. Production versions will be available in May 1997.
Actel is dedicated to providing the best programmable logic solutions, giving logic designers the capability and confidence to move to high complexity designs with success. The company is the world's leading supplier of antifuse-based field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and associated software development tools. FPGAs are used by designers of communications, computer, medical, military/aerospace, industrial control, and other electronic systems to differentiate their products and get them to market faster. Actel introduced the first programmable systems-on-silicon, based on SRAM technology, which inaugurated a new class of PLDs: SPGAs or system programmable gate arrays.
Actel is traded on the NASDAQ National Market under the symbol ACTL and is located at 955 East Arques Avenue, Sunnyvale, California 94086-4533. Telephone: 408/739-1010. Internet: http://www.actel.com -0-
Note to Editors: Actel is a registered trademark of Actel Corporation. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners.
CONTACT: Actel Corporation
Michael Saniei, 408/739-1010 (reader contact)
Chuck Byers, 408/739-1010 (media contact)
Walt & Company Communications
Sandy Turner/Kristin Jones, 408/496-0900