ALTIUM Limited has announced that Altium Designer 6.0, the latest version of its unified electronic product development system, has been enhanced to include full support for embedded designs using the Altera Nios II FPGA-based soft processor.
This allows developers using Altera FPGAs and the Nios II to take full advantage of Altium Designer’s unified design environment and LiveDesign methodology to accelerate system development.
Altium Designer provides an FPGA vendor-neutral solution to the development of embedded systems using programmable devices and provides a number of cross-device soft processor cores that can be implemented in virtually any large-scale FPGA, as well as support for a range of third-party soft and discrete processors.
Within Altium Designer, engineers can move their designs easily between different hardware platforms, targeting soft processors, discrete processors and hybrid FPGA/processor devices.
The addition of Nios II support in Altium Designer 6.0 allows engineers to take advantage of the higher performance and smaller size of the Nios II core when targeting Altera FPGAs, while retaining the benefits of rapid system development and design portability across processors offered by Altium Designer.
To support the Nios II, Altium Designer 6.0 includes a special FPGA-based ‘wrapper’ core that provides hardware-level design compatibility with Altium Designer’s native cross-device 32-bit processor – the TSK3000.
The wrapper allows designers to easily switch between the Nios II and the TSK3000, or any other soft or hard processor supported by the system, without the need to modify the hardware design.
It also means that engineers using the Nios II can take advantage of Altium Designer’s range of included peripherals that use the Wishbone OpenBus interconnect standard to extend processor functionality and facilitates the use of Altium Designer’s FPGA-based virtual instruments for interactive hardware/software debugging – LiveDesign.
As well as the Nios II, Altium Designer includes wrapper cores that target a range of soft and hybrid FPGA/processor devices and support has recently been added to the system for discrete processors such as those based on the popular ARM cores.
Altium Designer also allows Nios II developers to take advantage of Altium's newly-announced unified software/hardware C compiler technology, which is common across all processors supported by the Altium Designer system.
This technology allows selected C-functions to be compiled directly into FPGA hardware, providing an easy and effective way to significantly accelerate applications without the loss of design portability inherent in defining functionality in assembler code.
This provides tremendous flexibility during development and allows crucial system architecture decisions to remain open throughout the design process.
It also facilitates rapid, interactive experimentation with different code execution platform implementations to speed overall system development time.