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National Instruments Demonstrates 5x Speedup from FPGA in VST Test Demo at NI Day San Jose

Xilinx Employee
Xilinx Employee
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Back in September, I wrote about National Instruments’ Vector Signal Transceiver (VST), a PXIe instrument module (PXIe-5645R) that’s based on a microprocessor with a performance-boosting Xilinx Virtex-6 FPGA. The VST is the most successful product that National Instruments has ever launched. Last week at the first-ever NI Day San Jose, Eric Johnson, who is the Product Manager for the VST gave a live demonstration of the VST.

 

 

NI VST small.jpg

 

National Instruments Vector Signal Transceiver based on a Xilinx Virtex-6 FPGA

 

 

During the demo, Johnson showed that the local processing in the VST sped an RF amplifier-module production test by a factor of 12 compared to a “conventional rack-and-stack test system.” Turning over even something simple like test sequencing to the Virtex-6 FPGA gave another 5x performance boost, so that in the end the production text was running 60x faster than it did when controlled by an external host CPU. That improvement seriously improves production test costs.

 

The kicker here is that all of the tests are controlled by the same National Instruments’ LabView program, which can make use of local processing and local FPGA capabilities when available with just slight modifications to the code. This is a very slick aspect to National Instruments’ approach to programming and with the addition of FPGA abilities to LabView, falls nicely into the Xilinx categorization of All Programmable Abstractions. Software engineers familiar with LabView can easily accelerate their code “all the way down to the pins of the device” using the FPGA abstractions built into LabView.

 

Here’s the video of last week’s VST demonstration at NI Day San Jose:

 

 

 

 

(Note: Please excuse the production values of this video. The lighting dynamic range of pure white to pure black plus the dynamics of Johnson’s movements as his black-suited figure went in front of and behind the white demo table played havoc with my compact camera’s automatic exposure system.)

 

Also, here’s a video from National Instruments with some suggestions for using the VST: