Zynq devices, boards and suppliers

I'd like to pick people's brains about aspects of different *suppliers* of Zynq boards. Avnet and Digilent are front-runners, but any info/opinions about other suppliers would be helpful too.

- ease of using their embedded linux. My needs are simple, requiring a shell and TCP/IP protocols over ethernet. GUI not required, but might be used if it didn't complicate the development.

- quality of online support. How easy is it likely to be to find the information so that I can (a) duplicate any supplied demo environment and (b) mutate it so that my code accesses my programmable logic

- board production longevity. I'm not concerned about decades, but I would be concerned if a board was unobtainable within months

- ISE or Vivado environment

Background and context...

I'm intending to develop something based around a small Xylinx Zynq device. Cost is an issue, but not to the extent that I will be developing a board containing the FPGA itself. I will, however, be developing a small simple add-on board containing my analogue circuits.

Now I can read a datasheet and schematic and outline to determine the extent to which a board is suitable. However, as we are all aware, those documents /don't/ cover all the important points when choosing a board!

I've created many stand-alone hardware and software embedded systems, but *not* based on linux *nor* on ARM

*nor* in the Xilinx ecosystem. Since Zynq devices represent a complex environment, I'll have a learning curve (good, I like challenges), and I'm interested in the quality of the resources and support that I'll need to overcome my misapprehensions.
Reply to
Tom Gardner
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If you don't need it now, you might take a look at the Parallella board:

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Currently they have some issues with EOL parts and re-designing parts of the board, so it will be delayed a bit. But I guess there are not much boards with the Zynq chip for $99, and you get a lot of peripherals, too, and of course the Epiphany coprocessor. And the Zynq chip used on the Parallella board is supported by the free Xilinx ISE version:

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Linux is already working for the board (Ubuntu, well, you can't have anything, but should be not too difficult to port Debian for it). Even if you don't use it for your project later, might be a good starting point to learn to program the Zynq.

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Reply to
Frank Buss

Thanks.

I'd looked at that board a while ago, but at that time it was insufficiently real. Having seen the standard of some "open source" hardware[*] I'd like to see it be used in anger before I committed to it. Contrariwise, longevity might not be such an issue!

The low cost is remarkable. Before committing, I'd want to find out: - how to disable or ignore the Epiphany processor, since it isn't useful to me - what proportion of the programmable logic resources would be available for me to use for my logic

[*] and some COTS hardware for that matter :(
Reply to
Tom Gardner

This is almost a desktop class chip. Do you really need that power? I wish they have something smaller. I don't need dual core GHz core, but may be you do.

They says a Z7010 or Z7020. But for $99, most likely Z7010, which has 28K logic cells available.

If you are not building with chips, does it really matter with:

  1. A CPU + tiny FPGA (28K) or
  2. A CPU + FPGA (500K)

I am sure you can find a cheaper board with 2.

Reply to
edward.ming.lee

No I don't need that. But if it is there, I may find a use for it.

However, I do need one aspect of the SERDES I/O.

So am I. But cost isn't everything; my time is more important. Hence my question about board suppliers, not FPGA devices.

Reply to
Tom Gardner

You are taking a risk in basing a product on a development board - they aren't sold with that in mind and the suppliers don't see long term availability as part of the deal. There are quite a lot of boards based on the Zynq around - eg: Mars ZX3- Zynq-7000 SO-DIMM module (which I have not used and don't recommend o not recommend.) You should be able to find a board with long term support and actually intended for OEM supply.

Michael Kellett

Reply to
MK

Thanks. Your points are well noted. Fortunately it isn't actually for a product, only a prototype.

My concern is that I want/need decent documentation and/or community support - and that might not be there with a board that only has a very short production life.

Fundamentally I want to grab my data, process it and display it. I don't want to become an expert in creating a linux for board Munge v0.9 using tool Frobnatz v123.456!

Hence my questions about /which/ suppliers/toolsets that people have found to be "reliable" by the above definition.

Reply to
Tom Gardner

We do prototype in hope of building a product someday. If it's not suitable for a product, it's not suitable for prototype.

You see community support only if enough people see it as viable tool for projects over the long run. IMHO, the chip is too expensive for most embedded projects.

Sound like all you need are IP cores for SATA, PCIx, etc.

Reply to
edward.ming.lee

That might be your position, it isn't mine - and has never been throughout my working career.

Since that can only be known in retrospect, I'm asking questions about suppliers.

That's a valid judgement, but not the only valid judgement.

None of those are relevant to me.

Ethernet, TCP/IP and higher level protocol stack are likely be of interest.

Reply to
Tom Gardner

I can't suggest any specific boards, but

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might be of some interest. Its last few entries are about a Zynq-based project. Maybe posting to the blog's comment section will get some suggestions.

Reply to
Paul Rubin

Thanks for the pointer. Bookmarked.

A quick scan indicates some points that I don't feel are relevant to me, and some which may or may not be once I've read them more carefully.

Reply to
Tom Gardner

I've now had a more detailed look, and my initial comments are unchanged.

Overall the October 2 entry (FPGA is for freedom) comes across as a bit of a rant, but it does contain useful information.

The "uploads your design to Xilinx" for the zero cost toolset is, of course, less than desirable. It is a valid way of filtering out the commercial business from the free hobbyist sectors.

The claimed limitations of the software wizard for generating the memory interface is not good news -- and is just the kind of information I was hoping to elicit with my question. I would be curious to know whether or not the tool accurately reflects the silicon's capabilities.

The "DLL hell" (or linux equivalent!) is also bad news. Not sure what the solution would be if I suffered the same problem. Fortunately I have a newly-installed Xubuntu LTS, so it /ought/ to minimise the chance!

FSBL proprietary binary blob. I don't care if it is proprietary, /provided/ it works correctly. To me it is merely an extension of the config bitmap :)

Reply to
Tom Gardner

Enclustra's attitude of "we'll show you this documentation only /after/ you've become a customer" doesn't endear them to me. But that's their commercial decision.

They may be very good, but I would like to be able to evaluate that for myself! Shame.

Reply to
Tom Gardner

I know it doesn't have an FPGA, but if you need to add a board to it for the outer interface, you should check out the Beagle Board Black. It has amazing capability and LOTS of varied I/O pins, for $45! Runs a complete Linux system, but can be used "headless" (ie. no screen) easily. Your added board can have an FPGA or CPLD on it, if you are designing a board already, it is quite easy if you won't be running at high clock speeds. I do a bunch of CPLD and FPGA boards with only 2-sided PCBs. I have even run Spartan 3A and 3AN FPGAs on 2-sided boards with no trouble.

Jon

Reply to
Jon Elson

If I was going down that route I would probably use a Ztex board with a programmable USB slave

8051-class processor and a Spartan 6.

If I understand the datasheets (which is yet to be demonstrated) the Zynq will allow me to asynchronously sample an input at 2.4GS/s. That's my principal I/O requirement :) And at those data rates, I'd like to have reasonably clean edges which probably rules out 2-sided boards :)

Now the Ztex website and forums look quite reasonable, so I'm seriously considering using them as a *supplier* of a board.

But I'm still interested in information that will enable me to informally "qualify" other possible *suppliers*.

Reply to
Tom Gardner

Or a more direct competitor to the BBBlack, the Raspberry Pi, which has an amazing support ecosystem.

Reply to
Tom Gardner

Do you know anything about the microzed? I just heard of it, and it looks interesting:

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Also the Zybo:

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Reply to
Paul Rubin

They do indeed look interesting for my purposes, but I only know what I can read on the web.

So, we would /both/ like some info about the suppliers :)

Reply to
Tom Gardner

We're just starting on a uZed signal-processing project. It will be a uZed plugged into a motherboard that has power, clock, signal input and output networks, ADC, DAC, connectors, and miscellaneous stuff. We bought two uZed boards from Avnet and they power up running Linux. My programmer and FPGA guys are just now learning how to write a C app that interacts with the FPGA, but the documentation seems good and they are making good progress. I'll be doing the architecture and designing the hardware.

I took some pictures. The ones in the ZED documentation are mediocre.

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John Larkin                  Highland Technology Inc 
www.highlandtechnology.com   jlarkin at highlandtechnology dot com    
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Reply to
John Larkin

Thanks, that's useful, and I will be *most* interested to hear how it goes.

Out of curiosity, how long ago did you buy them and how long did they take to materialise? Currently Avnet are showing no stock and 5 weeks lead time.

Worryingly, it has been "5 weeks" for the past 3 weeks - so I'm concerned that Avnet have "lost interest" in the board. Any info about Avnet's support practices would be useful.

Reply to
Tom Gardner

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