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@Notarobot,

As to your newly bestowed title as "Prolific Poster". Before you go out and buy a few rounds for everyone at the local tavern in celebration you should look at the little + number below where your picture should be. If this site were run by a certain reputation based anti-virus application you and I'd be silently un-installed. Unfortunately, for those having the least knowledge upon which to base the "worthiness" of anyone's statements what's left is very unreliable. That makes those able to present themselves as being an infallible authority as the most believable. The best salesmen are those who believe everything that they say because they give no tells otherwise. So, I have no idea how this particular rating is calculated, or what it implies, but I doubt that it is a service to anyone who might put stock in it. I've got no solution except to say that if you can't do something correctly, then perhaps you shouldn't be doing it... at least as far as providing reputation goes.

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Posted (edited)

The future of FPGA development is here... if you are unfortunate enough to be an Intel (Altera) customer. Warning! The title of this thread is "Rants..." and this post is true to the title. I was just looking a a nifty Cyclone 10 development board. For $1200 it has almost everything one could want. Gen2 PCIe, FMC, 2 SFP+ interfaces, 12 Gbit transceivers... nice!. The development kit User's Guide start off with this:

"The Intel® Cyclone® 10 GX FPGA Development Kit is a complete design environment that includes both hardware and software you need to develop and evaluate the performance and features of the Intel Cyclone 10 GX FPGA device."

And then in the getting started section this:

"The Intel Cyclone 10 GX FPGA is only supported on Intel Quartus Prime Pro Edition. There is no paid license fee required for Intel Cyclone 10 GX support in Intel Quartus Prime Pro Edition."

So off you go to see what's involved in getting the tools ( that evidently aren't needed to develop and evaluate the performance and features of the Intel Cyclone 10 GX FPGA device ). Oh, the prime Pro edition costs at least $4000. But it gets better. The PRO edition only supports a few of the many Intel FPGA devices. Need to develop for Cyclone 10GX and Arria V? Then you also need to buy the Quartus Standard Edition for another $3000 because the "PRO" edition only supports 3 devices. Just Great...

Now, it was clear that when Intel bought Altera things were going to become a lot more painful for small companies and individuals but now we're beginning to get a glimpse of what's ahead.

Goodbye days when anyone could develop a product using Cyclone... that device is now tiered to extract maximum $$$ from whatever tier segment Intel imagines exists out there. To add insult to injury the Cyclone 10 is limited to internal clock network rates of about 300 MHz.

Goodbye days when small companies who needed to develop products that shipped in small quantities, some with low cost FPGAs and a few with high cost FPGAs from multiple vendors, could consider using an Altera FPGA.

Goodbye Altera.

I know that the reason why Intel bought Altera is that someday there will be embedded Intel SOCs with programmable logic but now I don't want to know how much it will cost to develop for those parts.

So the future of FPGA development is this: If you want to play you better have a lot of money to get in the door.

 

Edited by zygot

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@zygot,

Based upon what I heard from the industry leaders at DVCon last week, FPGA's are not a dead field at all, but needing money to get in the door makes a lot of sense.

The new explosive market for FPGA's is in verifying ASIC logic before tape-out.  The reality is that simulations just aren't powerful enough to keep up with the ultra-high speed chips, and so they are using FPGA's instead of simulations to make certain that your next generation phone, GPU, CPU, etc., works before they actually pay the $M+ to build the parts.  A small $10k (or worse) license fee is just chump change in this new market.

Dan

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Posted (edited)

@D@n,

Then again, you haven't worked for a lot of small companies as I have. Most of them don't have the money (non-capital expense ) to spend on development tools. And understand that this isn't a one time expense. It's a recurring annual expense. As an independent contractor I once had to buy annual subscriptions for both Altera and Xilinx... back when each was around $2000/yr. Ouch this is painful. I've worked for a lot of companies who won't invest in tool subscriptions or maybe just one to be shared.

I didn't make the argument that FPGA development is dead... just that the little guy is being cut out of the game. Yeah, you can run a blog and make tons' of money ( next time we meet for lunch you can buy... :> ) using free tools that target a few obsolete parts but if you want to do contract design work or small quantity production you'll need to be able to use whatever vendor's tools and devices the customer requires. 

After years of hearing industry sales pitches I have pretty reduced expectations with regard to the hype. FPGAs have always been used to verify ASIC designs, but not the FPGAs that you or I can afford. The big thing for FPGA's was (still is) bitcoin.  Once the non-physical money industry collapses it will be something else. I know of companies who use FPGAs to gain a millisecond in the high-speed stock trading game.

My point was (is) that you and I can't play in these areas. There aren't going to be a lot of jobs for new engineering grads in these specialized fields. The small enterprise that isn't funded by mega-wealthy investors are being squeezed out of access to technology. And with those small companies will go the jobs. And with the jobs will go the skills. BTW. Go out and apply for a job with a company. One of the first things you will be asked is "describe the project that you did with such and such a device" and that device is usually the largest and most expensive part available. Oh, you don't have experience ( if you haven't completed a project with that part you have no experience)? Goodbye. I've lost count on hpw many of those experiences I've had.

It's not the big companies who pay their way to society ( they make their fortunes figuring out how to extract value out of society ), it's the many many small companies who pay their way, and their taxes ( without negotiating tax breaks ), and provide most of the jobs.

Edited by zygot

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