The processing power of one of the most important components in our video kit has just doubled, again
Have you noticed just how much processing power our cameras, recorders and other devices have built into them these days? Maybe not: to an end user, it often just seems like things run a bit smoother, a bit faster, and perhaps a bit more smoothly. When software and computer hardware works well in a "device", you can almost forget that it's there.
You can forget, that is, until it runs up against a limit. There always is a limit. It might be only being able to process HD instead of 4K, or maybe recording at 30fps instead of 60fps. So you don't always experience these performance barriers as such - you'll just find that a camera or whatever simply doesn't have a particular feature.
And of course, enormous companies like Canon design their own chips, which are mass-produced to keep the cost down, but smaller companies have to take a more expensive route, which can, for users, actually be a better one.
If you want to design your own cutting edge product, whether it's am HDMI recorder, a monitor with built-in colour look up tables, or even a camera, the chances are that you'll build it around an FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array). These clever chips have have hardware connections that can be reconfigured using software - so they give you the significant advantage of essentially being able to run software at hardware speeds. So they're ideal for video.
What's more, they can easily be upgraded to do something completely different. It's like having a magic circuit board that can become several different things with a click of the fingers.
One example of FPGA goodness is the new Blackmagic URSA camera: it's got spare FPGA capacity on board, so it's got the potential do to things that no one has thought of yet.
With so much of our modern video stuff dependent on FPGAs, it's good to know they're getting faster. How much faster? Exactly double, according to one of the two major FPGA manufacturers, Altera.
We show their press release after the break, but, in essence, they're saying that their new genration of chips uses technology and techniques that allow them to go twice as fast. What does this mean in practice? Well, it's hard to be exact, because raw speed isn't everything. But if they genuinely are twice as fast, and if everything else in the device is able to keep up (storage, data interconnects, etc) then it would mean, for example, that they could cope with encoding to ProRes at 60p instead of 30p, or that they could work at a higher video resolution (perhaps not as big a jump as HD to 4K, but it would certainly help).
Proof again, as if it were needed, that technology is growing in power very fast. Couple this with other advances and we are definitely in for a thrilling ride!
Read Altera's press release (it's rather technical!) after the break
Altera Customers Achieve Industry Milestone – Realizing 2X Core Performance Gain with Stratix 10 FPGAs and SoCs
Unprecedented Performance Increase a Result of New HyperFlex Architecture and Intel 14 nm Tri-Gate Process Technology
San Jose, Calif., May 5, 2014 – Altera Corporation (Nasdaq: ALTR) today announced Stratix® 10 FPGA and SoC customers are successfully achieving the anticipated 2X core performance gain in their designs compared to previous generation high-performance programmable devices. Altera is working closely with several early access customers in multiple markets to benchmark their next-generation designs using Stratix 10 FPGA performance evaluation tools. The breakthrough leap in FPGA core performance customers are experiencing is a result of Intel’s 14 nm Tri-Gate process technology and the groundbreaking Stratix 10 HyperFlex™ architecture.
HyperFlex – Altera’s next-generation core fabric architecture for Stratix 10 devices – represents the FPGA industry’s most significant leap in architectural innovations in over a decade and enables applications not possible using conventional FPGA architectures. Stratix 10 FPGAs and SoCs with the HyperFlex architecture are able to meet the demands of the most advanced, performance-critical applications in the networking, communications, broadcast, military, and compute and storage markets.
Early access customers are experiencing firsthand the significant performance gains that Stratix 10 devices deliver. Through the Stratix 10 FPGA early access program, Altera is working with several customers to run their existing designs through performance evaluation tools built for Stratix 10 FPGAs. The customer designs target a wide range of applications and leverage a variety of hardware design approaches, including ASIC replacement designs, traditional high-performance FPGA communication designs and high-throughput data center and computation designs. In all cases customers experienced at least a 2X jump in their design’s performance using Stratix 10 FPGAs.
“Altera’s claim of 2X performance improvements seemed unimaginable when we first engaged in its Stratix 10 FPGA early access program,” said Bernd Liebetrau, Head of CoC Digital Integration at Rohde & Schwarz. “After only a few days working together and receiving great guidance from Altera technical staff, we were able to run one of our existing designs through Altera’s design tools and experience over twice the performance that our design previously ran. This level of performance will open up new applications for us that were previously unheard of in an FPGA.”
In addition to benchmarking customer designs, Altera has also optimized several of its soft IP cores for the Stratix 10 HyperFlex architecture to deliver similar 2X performance gains. Altera’s optical transport network (OTN) IP portfolio, running at 350 MHz in previous generation high-performance FPGAs, is achieving over 700 MHz performance with Stratix 10 devices. Altera’s 400 GbE IP, currently running with a 1024-bit wide data path in Stratix V FPGAs, operates with a 512-bit wide data path at 2X the performance with the HyperFlex architecture, delivering the same high throughput at significantly reduced area utilization within the programmable core fabric.
Patrick Dorsey, senior director of product marketing at Altera added, “We realize we were bold when we stated a 2X breakthrough in logic performance was achievable through architectural innovation and process technology leadership. Working side-by-side with customers, we have jointly confirmed what is possible with our next-generation Stratix 10 FPGA and SoC platform, and the results are remarkable.”
About Stratix 10 FPGAs and SoCs
Leveraging Intel’s 14 nm Tri-Gate process and the HyperFlex architecture, Stratix 10 FPGAs and SoCs are designed to enable the most advanced, highest performance applications in the communications, military, broadcast and compute and storage markets, while slashing system power. Stratix 10 FPGAs and SoCs deliver 2X the core performance of previous generation high-performance devices. For high-performance systems that have strict power budgets, Stratix 10 devices allow customers to achieve up to a 70 percent reduction in power consumption compared with Stratix V FPGAs. Stratix 10 FPGAs and SoCs also provide the industry’s highest levels of system integration, which include:
The highest density monolithic device with greater than four million logic elements (LEs).
Over 10 TeraFLOPs of single-precision, hardened floating point DSP performance.
More than 4X serial transceiver bandwidth compared to previous generation FPGAs, including 28-Gbps backplane capable transceivers and a path to 56-Gbps transceivers.
A 3rd-generation high-performance, quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 processor system.
Multi-die solutions capable of integrating DRAM, SRAM, ASIC, processors and analog components in a single package.
Stratix 10 FPGA early access design software will be available for customer use in summer 2014. For additional information regarding Stratix 10 FPGAs and SoCs, or to join the early access program, contact your local sales representative or visit www.altera.com.
Forward Looking Statement
This press release contains forward-looking statements regarding Stratix 10 devices and the availability of early access design software that are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Investors are cautioned that forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainty that can cause actual results to differ from those currently anticipated, as discussed in Altera’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings, copies of which are posted on Altera’s website and are otherwise available from the company without charge.
Altera® programmable solutions enable designers of electronic systems to rapidly and cost effectively innovate, differentiate and win in their markets. Altera offers FPGAs, SoCs, CPLDs, ASICs and complementary technologies, such as power management, to provide high-value solutions to customers worldwide. Visit http://www.altera.com.