Intel announces structured eASIC for 5G, AI

At Intel FPGA Technology Day, the company announced a customisable structured ASIC for 5G, artificial intelligent (AI), cloud and edge workloads.

The Intel eASIC N5X is the first structured eASIC family with an Intel FPGA- compatible hard processor system. Designers can use it to migrate both custom logic and designs, using the embedded hard processor in the FPGA, or to structured ASICs. Benefits cited by Intel are lower unit cost, faster performance and reduced power consumption.

According to Dave Moore, Intel corporate vice president and general manager of the Programmable Solutions Group, the Intel eASIC N5X offers the flexibility and time to market advantages of FPGAs with the performance and lower operating power of structured ASICs.

ASICs and structured ASIC devices provide hardware-optimised performance at the lowest power and cost, but the programmability of FPGAs helps users quickly develop hardware for specific workloads and adapt to changing standards. This was particularly the case in the early phases of the 5G rollout and the migration toward open radio access network (ORAN) implementations.

The Intel eASIC N5X devices, formerly codenamed Diamond Mesa, add a hard processor system and secure device managers, compatible with Intel FPGAs, to extend Intel’s logic portfolio.

They deliver up to 50 per cent lower core power and lower cost compared to FPGAs, yet provide faster time to market and lower non-recurring engineering costs than ASICs, says Intel, to create differentiated solutions. They incorporate a secure device manager adapted from the Intel Agilex FPGA family, including secure boot, authentication and anti-tamper features.

Intel’s eASIC devices (N5X, N3XS, N3X and N2X devices as well as Intel easicopy devices) are structured ASICs, which is an intermediary technology between FPGAs and standard cell ASICs. The eASIC devices provide lower unit cost and lower power compared to FPGAs and faster time to market and lower non-recurring engineering cost compared to standard cell ASICs.

Intel claims it is the only semiconductor company to offer the complete custom logic continuum of FPGAs, namely Intel Agilex and Intel Stratix 10, structured ASICs, such as Intel eASIC N5X and ASICs. This comprehensive data-processing portfolio of customisable logic devices helps users optimise unit cost, performance, power consumption and time to market for market-specific solutions.

Intel FPGA Technology Day was a virtual event this year, bringing together Intel executives, partners and customers to showcase the latest Intel programmable products and solutions through a series of keynotes, webinars and demonstrations.

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