Lancelot, an FPGA-based bitcoin mining board.
Lancelot, an FPGA-based bitcoin mining board. (source: Wikimedia Commons)

With interest growing in field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs)—witness Amazon’s recent addition of AWS EC2 instances that include dedicated FPGAs—this episode of the O’Reilly Hardware Podcast looks at what FPGAs are and how their capabilities are different from microcontroller boards (such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi). Jeff Bleiel and I speak with Ryan Cousins, co-founder and CEO of KRTKL (pronounced “critical”), the makers of Snickerdoodle, a board that’s based on an ARM/FPGA hybrid chip.

Discussion points:

  • The reconfigurable nature of an FPGA board, and how this flexibility enables developers to change what a device’s hardware is capable of doing
  • How the FPGA development can be more iterative because of the ability to upgrade hardware by pushing out a software update
  • How the FPGA and ARM chips interact with each other, and the performance benefits which result
  • The factors that led to the development of the Snickerdoodle board and the company’s goal of making FPGA technology more accessible to audiences such as educators and makers

Links:

  • The Zynq SoC, which integrates ARM and FPGA software and hardware programmability
  • OpenCores, a community repository of open source IP cores