At LDA Technologies we are doing many demos of our LDA e4 FPGA board enclosure and every meeting turns into an active Q&A session pretty fast: once people get the idea of the product’s capabilities.
LDA e4 FPGA board enclosure architecture brings us as close to modular design as we can get in the world of FPGA boards. The whole operation of the platform is maintained by embedded software running on the “base board”. And even though there is a motherboard connected via PCI Express (PCIe) interface, no claim is made to that resource by the platform: the resource is 100% given to the user to choose and use. Similarly, no claim is made to the FPGA board resources either: that is also 100% yours.
With this post, I would like to start highlighting the features that gained the most interest from FPGA users.
- Dedicated power circuit
LDA e4 FPGA board enclosure provides separate power control for FPGA board. It means that you can power down/up your FPGA board while your device is still running as is – unaffected. It also allows real-time FPGA board power consumption monitoring.
- Hot-plug driver for PCI Express
Usually, it means that the PCIe board can be plugged /unplugged while the system is up. On a lower level, it ensures that the system recognizes PCIe board presence upon plugging in.
These two features together introduce a very convenient way to reprogram your FPGA code. How are you currently doing it on a server? Load the FPGA code and cold boot the machine to ensure that a) the FPGA board is powered down/up and b) system recognizes FPGA board’s presence in the PCIe slot.
In LDA e4 you flash the FPGA image, power down/power up only the FPGA board from the command line without bringing the whole system down and thanks to the hot-plug driver, the system picks up the board presence on PCIe slot without any need for a cold reboot. I don’t think I should get into why is it so cool: if you have dealt with FPGA, you’ll remember all those times when you had to restart the whole server and wait for it to come back up. For how long? 5 minutes, 10? It bring us to the next feature of LDA e4 FPGA board enclosure.
- Fast reboot
The LDA e4 FPGA board enclosure: e4 “base board”, connected hardware (ports, etc.) and supporting embedded software altogether reboot in under 1 second. It means that unless there is additional time introduced by whatever runs on the motherboard, your whole system will be up and running literally in 1 second.
- Internal USB
LDA e4 FPGA board enclosure contains 2 Internal USB ports for debugging tools such as JTAG adapters, USB Serial Ports, etc. What makes this stand out and be a very useful feature is that internal USB ports can be powered off/on remotely (from a command line) at any time. No more hanging JTAG which made us go to the server to re-plug it.This feature, paired with command line tools that allow working with bar registers directly, simplify debugging in a way that isn’t available anywhere else thus making LDA e4 the debugging platform of choice for many.
While these features are mainly targeted at FPGA developers, they have their effect outside the lab too.
Looking at it in numbers: using LDA e4 FPGA board enclosure will save you an average of 8 minutes every time your box or your board is in need of a reboot. Five reboots per day give us 40 minutes or 3.3 hours a week. Depending on the case this could be your development time in the office. Or the time that your FPGA card IP core is not running in the data center.
So, I think it would be safe to say that if you are doing serious FPGA development the LDA e4 FPGA board enclosure will pay off fast enough.