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Cyclone V SoC Qseven SOM: MAKE OR BUY

iWave’s Cyclone V SoC Qseven System On Module is the industry-first Qseven design for this particular FPGA. The Cyclone V SoC Qseven Module offers remarkable integration capabilities delivering application-class ARM® Cortex™-A9 processors, state-of-the-art transceivers, and memory controllers integrated with high-performance programmable logic fabric due to unique design of the FPGA fabric. The module is equipped with Altera's Cyclone V SX SoC FPGA which has Dual core ARM Cortex-A9, Hard Processor System(HPS), FPGA with upto 110K LEs;  512MB DDR3 with ECC for HPS, 256MB DDR3 for FPGA. In order to make the module/design compatible with Qseven specification the appropriate are brought out at the Qseven edge connector.

Advantages of Cyclone V SoC Qseven SOM over regular (non FPGA) Qseven SOMs:

Using iWave’s Cyclone V SoC Qseven SOM in the system often eliminates the need for implementation of complex FPGA circuit in a custom carrier board. Cyclone V SoC Qseven SOM allows greater flexibility, saves cost and system space. High speed differential IO interfaces supported in the SoC are configurable. Customer can configure the IO as SATA/PCIe/Rapid IO based on their requirements. (In regular app processor based SOMs, this flexibility is not available). For instance if a particular application demands that high speed video ADC’s/DAC’s to be interfaced, because of FPGA on chip the client can easily use the high speed transceivers that are otherwise used for PCIe or SATA interface.

The SOM can be deployed for wide array of applications requiring FPGA + Processor for the implementation such as, drives, solar inverters, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), or camera-based surveillance systems in a single device.

Whether to Make or Buy:

The use of off the shelf Cyclone V SoC Qseven System on Module yield benefits like quick time to market, scalability and cost saving, thus enabling companies to obtain a competitive edge  over others. A typical Product Development life Cycle comprises of the stages as illustrated below. For the sake of simplicity let’s categorize the various phases of product development broadly into two, namely engineering cycle and Business. Idea Validation, Design, Prototype product and product testing constitutes the engineering cycle and business planning, pilot production, manufacturing, commercialization constitutes the business aspect.

System on Module

Product Development Life Cycle

Make or buy: An Engineering perspective

Altera Cyclone V SoC

Altera Cyclone V SoC Based Qseven SOM

The engineering team is often presented with the challenge of delivering a solution/product within pressing timelines coupled by numerous new additional requirements, leading to plausible risks. Also it is very difficult and almost impossible for product companies to keep pace with the changing technology and new CPU launches every quarter.  Deciding to buy a qualified and well tested off the shelf module therefore is one way of hedging the dynamic changes in the semiconductor industry.

Typically to build a Cyclone V SoC Qseven module would take about 120,000 to 150,000 USD and anywhere between six to nine months of effort. Another 60,000USD for maintenance and BSP upgrades. Totaling 210,000 USD for NRE (Non recurring Engineering cost). Of course one would have to pay a fraction more on the per unit cost if they decide to BUY the module. For example, let’s say the additional cost per unit is 10 USD, in such a case the breakeven would be at 21000 Units.

 

Quite obviously at lower volumes (up to 1000 annual quantity), buying off the shelf modules is the ideal and easy choice, while at larger volumes, things get a little interesting and tricky; lot of companies fall for the temptation to build on their own, not realizing the possible pitfalls associated with this traditional approach. However rather than building a custom module, opting for a standard module like Cyclone V SoC Qseven SOM, presents a choice to select from various offerings available in the market. More often than not, the prime deciding factor is not the cost, but factors like time to market, complexity involved with designing in-house and associated maintenance/support cost. And if one eventually decides to buy an off the shelf module; stands to benefit from a very quick time to market, and can reap price benefits from the economies of scale that the ‘System On Modules’ approach offers.

Qseven SOM Carrier Card

Cyclone V SoC Qseven Development Kit - Mounting SOM on to the Carrier Card

 

 

Make or buy: A business perspective

Choosing to use off the shelf module, i.e. deciding to buy the module presents the following business benefits:

  • Cuts down on the development life cycle and saves engineering costs.
  • Allows ease of scalability and reduced maintenance cost once the product gets into mass/series production.
  • In some applications (which involve low complexity and lesser PCB layers for application hardware) the two board approach can save PCB cost too, by virtue of having the complex hardware with higher PCB layer requirements moved to module.

 Cyclone-V-SoC-Development-Platform

Cyclone V SoC Qseven Development Kit

In a nutshell, the advantages of buying off the shelf Module outweigh the approach of designing in-house. While at low volumes the pragmatic approach is “buying”, at larger volumes “buying” results in quicker time to market, scalability, reduced support cost. 

iWave’s unique ability to provide Qseven module, BSP support and the FPGA IP cores with extensive FPGA expertise, under one roof helps the client to shorten the product development life cycle and achieve quick time to market.


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For further information or enquiries please write to mktg@iwavesystems.com or contact our Regional Partners