Xilinx Offers App-Specific Tool Bundles in ISE Design Suite Rev 11.1

Submitted by BDTI on Wed, 05/20/2009 - 18:00

In February when Xilinx announced its new Virtex-6 and Spartan-6 families, the company also discussed its intention to provide more domain-oriented development tools and development paradigms. In April the company began to make good on its promise by announcing domain-specific tool bundles as part of its new release of the ISE Design Suite, Rev 11.1.

The new suite comprises four “editions” of the tools: logic, digital signal processing, embedded processing, and system-level design. Each edition includes domain-specific tools and IP that are intended to provide a design flow that’s better tailored to the needs of the target application domain—and to the relevant engineering skill set. ISE Design Suite Editions are shown in Table 1.



Target Domain/User


Logic Edition

Baseline tool suite; intended for general FPGA-based design and implementation

  • All tools needed for design, pin assignment, synthesis, verification, implementation, floor planning, bitstream generation, and programming.
  • Simulator
  • Base-level IP

DSP Edition

Tailored for DSP algorithm, system, and hardware developers

  • All tools and IP in the Logic Edition
  • System Generator for DSP
  • AccelDSP Synthesis Tool
  • DSP-specific IP

Embedded Edition

Tailored for designers incorporating embedded processors in their designs

  • All tools and IP  in the Logic Edition
  • Embedded Development Kit (EDK) with the Platform Studio
  • Embedded-specific IP, including the MicroBlaze soft  processor

System Edition

Includes full support for implementing logic, DSP, and embedded processing

  • Everything included in the Logic, DSP, and Embedded editions


In addition to bundling the tools into domain-specific packages, Xilinx has made a wide variety of improvements to the efficiency, ease-of-use, and performance of the tools. Performance and efficiency improvements include faster place-and-route (2X, according to Xilinx), reduced dynamic power consumption in FPGA designs (by ~10%), reduced memory footprint of FPGA designs (by about 30%) and faster synthesis.  

A few of the many new features include support for FLEXnet licensing, which allows the tools to be shared by multiple users on a network via floating licenses, and support for dual hard and/or soft processor core development from within the Base System Builder (BSB). According to Xilinx, inter-tool communication has also been improved to enable a more efficient design flow between base and domain-specific tools.

Initially, the tools will support Virtex-5 and Spartan-3 FPGA families. Support for Virtex-6 and Spartan-6 is available via an early access program, with general tool support for these families expected in Release 11.2.

There are expanding opportunities for FPGAs in a wide range of applications, but a key impediment to their more widespread adoption has been their historically time-consuming and difficult development paradigm. Making tools and tool flows domain-specific is one reasonable way to simplify complex design problems.  By offering domain-specific tools, Xilinx is hoping to attract a wider range of embedded engineers and system designers, and capture sockets that might otherwise be ceded to more traditional processing engines.  The new tool bundles are a modest, but meaningful, step in that direction.

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