Xilinx unveils open source FPGA platform

New Vitis kit from FPGA vendor Xilinx will use familiar languages like C++ and Python for everything from IoT to video encoding.

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The Vitis unified software platform from FPGA vendor Xilinx is the result of five-year project to create software development tools using familiar languages like C++ and Python to develop a wide range of applications for its reprogrammable chip.

The beauty of FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays) is their configurable, adaptable nature. That's also what makes programming them a king-sized challenge. They're difficult to work with for an unskilled programmer who is not well versed in hardware, and they often require esoteric languages.

Vitis supports heterogeneous architectures including Xilinx’s Zynq SoCs, MPSoCs, and Versal ACAPs. Vitis is designed to enable highly optimized, domain-specific acceleration to a wide array of applications, from cloud deployments, to machine learning and AI, to IoT and desktop applications. Think of it as being for Xilinx what CUDA is to Nvidia.

The Vitis platform is built on a stack-based architecture that plugs into open-source standard development systems and build environments. The base layer is comprised of a board and pre-programmed I/O. A second layer includes the Vitis core development kit, with compilers, analyzers, and debuggers from Xilinx and others.

A third layer houses eight Vitis libraries that provide more than 400 open-source applications. Among the notable libraries is the Vitis AI component, which supports the TensorFlow, Caffe, and PyTorch frameworks for distributed neural network processing. Vitis Video will support FFmpeg for video processing engines in the cloud.

Xilinx has an existing toolkit, the Vivado Design Suite, for those who want to program using hardware code. The company says it will continue to support Vivado, but Vitis is designed to help hardware developers by packaging hardware modules as “software-callable functions.”

Xilinx also announced a Developer.Xilinx.com site that will connect developers to experts in various disciplines and will make projects from these experts freely available for use.

Xilinx says the Vitis Unified Development Software Platform will be made freely available next month for Xilinx boards. Interested developers can sign-up here.

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