University of Utah electrical and computer engineering associate professor Pierre-Emmanuel Gaillardon and research professor Xifan Tang are part of a group that has launched the Open Source Field-Programmable Gate Array Foundation in Salt Lake City, which will increase awareness and accelerate both the adoption and implementation of open-source FPGA technology worldwide. The two serve as board members of the foundation.

“If you want to build something open source, to make it successful it should come from all engineers worldwide,” said Tang. “New developers and engineers who join the open-source committee can contribute to the FPGA project and make the software more powerful.” 

FPGAs play a key role in markets such as aerospace and defense, data centers, and automotive systems but have been notoriously difficult to produce. The foundation aims to relieve companies of the engineering and labor-intensive processes that come from producing FPGA chips. It also offers freedom to software developers when customizing FPGA software stacks and provides a space for open collaboration. 

The foundation provides students, universities, and startups working on or interested in advancing open-source FPGA capabilities access to free resources and tools related to FPGA hardware and software that they would not have previously had access to. It also includes the first open-source FPGA IP generator that supports highly customizable FPGA architectures and provides a full set of EDA support for customized FPGAs, including Verilog-to-bitstream generation and self-testing verification. 

“In the past, this knowledge has been closed off, and now that it is open and transparent, students can have access to what the industry is doing through the open-source channels and can learn from practical studies,” Tang said.

The foundation is working toward democratizing the technology by establishing necessary cooperation channels, coordinating joint efforts to enable easier participation, and promoting outreach and education.

Gaillardon, who is also associate chair of Academics and Strategic Initiatives for the ECE department, has raised $3 million in funding for the project from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and industry partners, such as Google. 

Learn more about the Open Source FPGA Foundation here.