A few days ago, I noticed that AMD Xilinx had published a blog stating that 7 series devices would be available beyond 2035. I must admit my first thought was one of interest, as I had not realized, they were coming up towards what might be considered the end of the standard 15-year life cycle. I guess time flies when you’re having fun working with FPGAs. Indeed, it must, as the first 7 series devices were introduced in 2011, swiftly followed by this blog which started a few years later in 2013.
Over the years, we have worked a lot with 7 series devices, from the MicroZed Zynq-7000 (which the blog was originally focused on) to Spartan and Artix devices, especially on the Arty boards. So, I am very excited that AMD Xilinx has announced support for these devices well into the 2030s.
Besides meaning the knowledge base I have created over the years, this blog will continue to be evergreen, it means my design and consultancy clients can continue to design in 7 series devices for many years.
This announcement makes me happy, as the 7 series range is one of the most versatile ranges available. Spanning from the Zynq devices, which offers a capable embedded processing solution coupled with high performance logic, to the Spartan and Artix families, which offer high performance logic with and without transceivers. There is also slightly higher performance and support for high performance I/O through the Kintex-7 family.
The 7 series were the first of the AMD Xilinx devices to introduce 36kb BRAMS, DSP blocks which contained the ability to perform SIMD, with ALU and pattern matching, enabling much higher performance. They also introduced one of my favourite elements the XADC, which is useful not only for board bring up, but also, safety, security and telemetry. It can also reduce some on-board components helping integration.
Over the years, we have seen some interesting applications created using these devices. For example, the Tektronix TBS1052C is based around a single core Zynq-7000 SoC. I have also designed 7 series devices into a range of applications, including Lidar (Artix), medical imaging (Zynq) and industrial (Zynq). The combination of PS and PL worked ideally for the medical and industrial applications, as both these applications were battery powered, so low power solutions were very important. The Artix in the Lidar application is used to drive laser diodes and gather the response.
This is not a totally surprising announcement from AMD Xilinx, as 7 series devices are fabricated on TSMC 28 nm node. The 28 nm node appears to hit a sweet spot between performance, power and cost, which is beneficial in many applications, from industrial to automotive and medical especially those devices which need to be at the cost-optimized end of the device spectrum.
For me, this announcement also demonstrates stability, which means the same range of devices will be able to be designed into solutions for 25+ years. This reduces the costs and impacts associated with device migrations and engineering efforts, and resources can be focused on implementing product roadmap enhancements and new products.
Now, of course there are currently supply constraints. However, that is a global industry-wide issue. However, by the late 2030s, this will be looked back on as an inconvenient blip on the long and productive history of the 7 series devices.