4.7  FPGA Economics

FPGA vendors offer a wide variety of packaging, speed, and qualification (military, industrial, or commercial) options in each family. For example, there are several hundred possible part combinations for the Xilinx LCA series. Figure 4.8 shows the Xilinx part-naming convention, which is similar to that used by other FPGA vendors.

FIGURE 4.8  Xilinx part-naming convention.

 

Table 4.2 shows the various codes used by manufacturers in their FPGA part numbers. Not all possible part combinations are available, not all packaging combinations are available, and not all I/O options are available in all packages. For example, it is quite common for an FPGA vendor to offer a chip that has more I/O cells than pins on the package. This allows the use of cheaper plastic packages without having to produce separate chip designs for each different package. Thus a customer can buy an Actel A1020 that has 69 I/O cells in an inexpensive 44-pin PLCC package but uses only 34 pins for I/O—the other 10 (= 44 – 34) pins are required for programming and power: three for GND, four for VDD, one for MODE (a pin that controls four other multifunction pins), and one for VPP (the programming voltage). A designer who needs all 69 I/Os can buy the A1020 in a bigger package. Tables in the FPGA manufacturers’ data books show the availability, and these matrices change constantly.

TABLE 4.2  Programmable ASIC part codes.

Item

Code

Description

 

Code

Description

Manufacturer’s

code

A

Actel

 

ATT

AT&T (Lucent)

XC

Xilinx

 

isp

Lattice Logic

 

EPM

Altera MAX

 

M5

AMD MACH 5 is on the device

 

EPF

Altera FLEX

 

QL

QuickLogic

 

CY7C

Cypress

 

 

 

Package

type

PL or PC

plastic J-leaded chip carrier, PLCC

 

VQ

very thin quad flatpack, VQFP

PQ

plastic quad flatpack, PQFP

 

TQ

thin plastic flatpack, TQFP

 

CQ or CB

ceramic quad flatpack, CQFP

 

PP

plastic pin-grid array, PPGA

 

PG

ceramic pin-grid array, PGA

 

WB, PB

ball-grid array, BGA

Application

C

commercial

 

B

MIL-STD-883

 

I

industrial

 

E

extended

 

M

military

 

 

 

TABLE 4.3  1992 base Actel
FPGA prices.

 

TABLE 4.4  1992 base Xilinx XC3000
FPGA prices.

Actel part

1H92 base price

 

Xilinx part

1H92 base price

A1010A-PL44C

$23.25

 

XC3020-50PC68C

$26.00

A1020A-PL44C

$43.30

 

XC3030-50PC44C

$34.20

A1225-PQ100C

$105.00

 

XC3042-50PC84C

$52.00

A1240-PQ144C

$175.00

 

XC3064-50PC84C

$87.00

A1280-PQ160C

$305.00

 

XC3090-50PC84C

$133.30

4.7.1 FPGA Pricing

Asking “How much do FPGAs cost?” is rather like asking “How much does a car cost?” Prices of cars are published, but pricing schemes used by semiconductor manufactures are closely guarded secrets. Many FPGA companies use a pricing strategy based on a cost model that uses a series of multipliers or adders for each part option to calculate the suggested price for their distributors. Although the FPGA companies will not divulge their methods, it is possible to reverse engineer these factors to create a pricing matrix.

Many FPGA vendors sell parts through distributors. This can introduce some problems for the designer. For example, in 1992 the Xilinx XC3000 series offered the following part options:

TABLE 4.5  Actel price adjustment factors.

Purchase quantity, all types

 

(1–9)

(10–99)

(100–999)

 

 

 

100 %

 

96 %

84 %

 

 

 

Purchase time, in (100–999) quantity

 

1H92

2H92

93

 

 

 

100 %

 

80–95 %

60–80 %

 

 

 

Qualification type, same package

 

Commercial

Industrial

Military

883-B

 

 

100 %

120 %

150 %

230–300 %

 

 

Speed bin 1

 

ACT  1-Std

ACT 1-1

ACT 1-2

ACT  2-Std

ACT  2-1

 

100 %

 

115 %

140 %

100 %

120 %

 

Package type

 

A1010:

PL44, 64, 84

PQ100

PG84

 

 

 

100 %

125 %

400 %

 

 

A1020:

PL44, 64, 84

PQ100

JQ44, 68, 84

PG84

CQ84

 

100 %

125 %

270 %

275 %

400 %

A1225:

PQ100

PG100

 

 

 

 

100 %

175 %

 

 

 

A1240:

PQ144

PG132

 

 

 

 

100 %

140 %

 

 

 

A1280:

PQ160

PG176

CQ172

 

 

 

100 %

145 %

160 %

 

 

  • Five different size parts: XC30{20, 30, 42, 64, 90}
  • Three different speed grades or bins: {50, 70, 100}
  • Ten different packages: {PC68, PC84, PG84, PQ100, CQ100, PP132, PG132, CQ184, PP175, PG175}
  • Four application ranges or qualification types: {C, I, M, B}

where {} means “Choose one.”

This range of options gave a total of 600 possible XC3000 products, of which 127 were actually available from Xilinx, each with a different part code. If a designer is uncertain as to exact size, speed, or package required, then they might easily need price information on several dozen different part numbers. Distributors know the price information—it is given to each distributor by the FPGA vendors. Sometimes the distributors are reluctant to give pricing information out—for the same reason car salespeople do not always like to advertise the pricing scheme for cars. However, pricing of the components of a microelectronics system is a vital factor in making decisions such as whether to use FPGAs or some alternative technology. Designers would like to know how FPGAs are priced and how prices may change.

4.7.2  Pricing Examples

Table 4.3 shows the prices of the least-expensive version of the Actel ACT 1 and ACT 2 FPGA families, the base prices , in the first half of 1992 (1H92). Table 4.4 shows the 1H92 base prices for the Xilinx XC3000 FPGA family. Current FPGA prices are much lower. As an example, the least-expensive XC3000 part, the XC3020A-7PC68C, was $13.75 in 1996—nearly half the 1992 price.

Using historical prices helps prevent accusations of bias or distortion, but still realistically illustrates the pricing schemes that are used. We shall use these base prices to illustrate how to estimate the sticker price of an FPGA by adding options—as we might for a car. To estimate the price of any part, multiply the base prices by the adjustment factors (shown in Table 4.5 for the Actel parts).

The adjustment factors in Table 4.5 were calculated by taking averages across a matrix of prices. Not all combinations of product types are available (for example, there was no military version of an A1280-1 in 1H92). The dependence of price over time is especially variable. An example price calculation for an Actel part is shown in Table 4.6 . Many FPGA vendors use similar pricing models.

TABLE 4.6  Example Actel part-price calculation using the base prices of Table 4.3 and the adjustment factors of Table 4.5 .

Example: A1020A-2-PQ100I in (100–999) quantity, purchased 1H92.

 

Factor

Example

Value

Base price

A1020A

$43.30

Quantity

100–999

84 %

Time

1H92

100 %

Qualification type

Industrial (I)

120 %

Speed bin 2

2

140 %

Package

 

PQ100

125 %

Estimated price (1H92)

 

$76.38

Actual Actel price (1H92)

 

$75.60

Some distributors now include FPGA prices and availability online (for example, Marshall at http://marshall.com for Xilinx parts) so that is possible to complete an up-to-date analysis at any time. Most distributors carry only one FPGA vendor; not all of the distributors publish prices; and not all FPGA vendors sell through distributors. Currently Hamilton-Avnet, at http://www.hh.avnet.com , carries Xilinx; and Wyle, at http://www.wyle.com , carries Actel and Altera.


1. Actel speed bins are: Std = standard speed grade; 1 = medium speed grade; 2 = fastest speed grade.

2. The speed bin is a manufacturer’s code (usually a number) that follows the family part number and indicates the maximum operating speed of the device.


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