This week Lattice Semiconductor launched its newest general-purpose FPGA family based on its popular Nexus platform, the CertusPro-NX. As Lattice is the market share leader in FPGAs, when the company announces anything new , people notice. And here I am.
Lattice’s Nexus platform isn’t entirely new, as the company has been developing general-purpose FPGAs on the Nexus platform for 18 months now. However, when Lattice brought its Nexus platform to market in 2019, it marked a significant moment for low-power FPGAs. Since then, Lattice had followed up its original launch of CrossLink-NX with Certus-NX and Mach-NX in 2020, and now with CertusPro-NX. This launch shows that the company focused on executing its multiyear roadmap and product plans shared with analysts over 18 months ago.
Lattice built the new CertusPro-NX family to tackle a variety of workloads depending on differing developer use cases. Even though the new CertusPro-NX focuses on generality, it appears to excel particularly at high-performance computing data inference workloads within artificial intelligence and machine learning apps. The CertusPro-NX applications will vary greatly and touch edge markets like automotive, industrial, communications, compute, and consumer segments. After that preamble, let’s dig into the announcement.
Lattice positioned the new CertusPro-NX solutions as its new low power, high-performance general-purpose FPGAs. In layman’s terms, the FPGA is programmable to tackle many different workloads depending on developer preferences. This programmability allows the developers to utilize the FPGA in many other use cases ranging from controls for 5G communications to bridging interfaces in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Just because the solutions are adaptable doesn’t mean there isn’t a particular application that benefits more than others from Lattice’s design. In CertusPro-NX, the FPGA solution is optimized for data inference workloads in both AI and ML applications. This sort of nimbleness is precisely what makes FPGAs so popular compared to non-reprogrammable ASICs.
One of the critical strengths of Lattices FPGA solutions is the FGPAs low power consumption. On top of low power consumption, Lattice has provided its customers with high performance and low power modes which is essential because different workload draws different requirements from the hardware. The balance between power and performance is a delicate one that developers need to adjust in real-time.
The specs of the CertusPro-NX devices are what I have come to expect from Lattice, highly performant with lowest power consumption. I listed a few of the features and benefits customers should see with the CertusPro-NX platform:
· Lattice claims that CertusPro-NX devices deliver excellent performance while consuming four times less power than similar class FPGAs
- Best in class system bandwidth with 8 SERDES lanes capable of 10.3 Gbps speeds
- 65 percent more on-chip memory than other similar FPGAs
- Support for up to 100k logic cells makes CertusPro-NX the highest logic dense Nexus-based FPGA
- 100 times more resistant to soft errors
- Small design footprint of 81mm and up to 6.5 times smaller than competing devices
Lattice called out Intel and Xilinx competitors within its announcement and the company mentioned that CertusPro-NX would routinely outperform similar competing devices in key performance. Lattices’ key performance areas were memory density, system bandwidth, support for small form factors, and data processing performance. The CertusPro-NX is also the first general-purpose FGPA to implement LPDDR4 support for external memory. Since CertusPro-NX offers, LPDDR4 Lattice claims users can get 65 percent more memory in a similar solution. CertusPro-NX solutions claim to double the performance of competitive offerings while consuming half the power as well.
While I would normally take huge claims like this with a grain of salt if I hadn’t run them myself, here’s why I believe Lattice’s claims. Lattice builds grounds up lowest power FPGAs in the latest manufacturing technologies and Intel and Xilinx are leveraging much older designs and manufacturing processes. I’m not taking a swipe at Intel or Xilinx FPGAs as the lowest power devices aren’t its strategies. Intel and Xilinx are both focused on the highest performance, higher power FPGAs and SOCs with the highest performance FPGAs. Xilinx doesn’t play there… yet.
Radiant 3.0 Software
Lattice is no longer a hardware only play. It invests in software extensively to make it easier for OEMS and ODMs to design in devices and shrink time to market. This is a huge benefit versus ASICs. Lattice Radiant software is the core developer platform to develop FPGA applications in the most efficient and effective way.
The new software paired with the new CertuxPro-NX FPGAs is just as essential as the hardware. A new iteration of Lattices Radiant software, Radiant 3.0, is now available to use in conjunction with CertusPro-NX devices. In addition, Lattice brought some new features to the software to improve the user experience, including making it quicker to use and easier to operate. I listed some of the critical improvements close to verbatim from Lattices’ announcement.
Feature upgrades in Radiant 3.0 software:
- 15 percent reduction in runtime and 7 percent increase in design performance compared to the last release
- Speeding up the iterative design process by separating timing analysis from other operations and allowing it run independently
- The choice between running Lattice Synthesis Engine (LSE) and Synplify Pro synthesis engine
- SERDES analysis tool enhanced to accommodate higher SERDES bandwidths support by CertusPro-NX devices
- Improved signal traceability throughout the design flow via the graphical user interface (GUI)
I am not a developer, so I can’t speak to most of the upgrades in this new iteration of the Radiant 3.0 software. What I can say is that Lattice seemed focused on improving the user experience and ease of use on its platform, and that sounds like a great thing for developers building on Lattice FPGAs.
Lattice also provides more application specific developer tools, called “Solution Stacks” including sensAI (ML inference), mVision (computer vision), Sentry (security) and Automate (industrial automation).
If Lattice benchmarks are legitimate and I have no reason to believe they aren’t, then CertusPro-NX will continue the lowest power, high-performance dominance Lattice has paved with its Nexus platform. Out of the gate, the CertusPro-NX family of devices looks like they will provide value to developers in a wide range of use cases and applications. Lattice is already shipping CertusPro-NX to select customers, so hopefully, we will hear some feedback on the new FPGAs sooner rather than later.
Lattice threw a lot of specs and application information our way with this announcement. I will lean on third-party developers to speak more into the hardware and user experience with the new Radiant 3.0 software before being sold entirely on the latest products. Nonetheless, Lattice is executing on the promises of low power programmable leadership. I appreciate companies that can sustain intense singular focus, and this launch was an example of that. Good job, Lattice.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.