mrdunky

Best FPGA card to learn Network Message Processing

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Which are the choices to learn about network message processing in FPGA? 
I would like to get a couple of FPGA cards, to allow students to learn about low latency network message processing.  
My assumption is that the Ethernet port must be connected directly to the FPGA. Is this correct?
If that is correct, then it seems that low cost solutions like the Arm based Zinq are not appropriate, as the network port is connected to the ARM CPU, and not directly to the FPGA. 
So far, the only card I could find where this 'direct connect' is stated, is the NetFPGA 1G card, at around 1,500 usd, 
Are there any lower cost options? 

 

 

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hello @mrdunky,

Have you looked on our Artix-7 based developing boards like Arty or Nexys 4-DDR? Arty is a pretty cheap board and has 10/100 Mbps Ethernet. You can find the pricing in the links on their names and the reference manual and the boards schematic below:

https://reference.digilentinc.com/reference/programmable-logic/arty/start

https://reference.digilentinc.com/reference/programmable-logic/nexys-4-ddr/start

Best regards,

Bianca

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@Bianca,

I think @mrdunky was looking for something where he could practice switching--hence he needs more than one network port on a board, so he can work high speed switching practices between them.  Neither the Arty nor the Nexys have more than one ethernet port as I recall.  Doesn't this push @mrdunky to a much higher end board?

Dan

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@D@n,

I was thinking about tagging you before :P

Our Zynq boards he was talking about don't have more than one connector either. ZYBO, ZEDBOARD, ARTY-Z7, PYNQ, all of them have just one Ethernet port. Beside the NetFPGA 1G-CML we don't have anything with more than one Ethernet port. 

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On 3/21/2017 at 8:00 PM, mrdunky said:

allow students to learn about low latency network message processing

I'm not sure what this means to you. To me this means 10G or 100G and very expensive custom FPGA cards used in low-level packet inspection or high-speed trading. For student projects 1Gbit should be sufficient. I've done a lot of non-standard data transport applications using FPGA point-point designs. These have all been MAC-less and not involved software.

On 3/21/2017 at 8:00 PM, mrdunky said:

My assumption is that the Ethernet port must be connected directly to the FPGA

I would certainly agree with that assumption. Even if you have a custom board with a high-speed processor connected directly to a Ethernet PHY and can DMA data in and out there will be latencies that can better be controlled in FPGA logic. The old Digilent ATLAS and Genesys (Virtex 5 version) are two nice platforms for such experimentation. They both have a parallel USB 2.0 interface to get data to and from a PC quickly. I've used both boards in such a manner. You'll have to use ISE with either of these boards but Digilent should be able to make a deal for academic use.

There just aren't too many inexpensive FPGA to Ethernet PHY boards out there these days. Lattice and Actel ( rather whoever owns them currently ) might have a few options but they are not as 'user friendly' as one might hope. I have a few sitting around waiting for attention after trying to do something useful with them. 

I should mention that if you are just getting started with FPGA Ethernet PHY applications there will be a learning curve to get to where they become tools rather than the focus of effort.

Edited by zygot

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