T-Engine and FPGA Development

The T-Engine is a hardware and software platform for the rapid development of embedded and real-time systems. Traditionally, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA) have multiple applications in embedded systems, such as:

  • Hardware Acceleration for compute-intensive modules
  • Prototyping of digital peripheral modules
  • Glue logic for embedded systems (though CPLDs are more preferred for this)
  • Emulation of digital peripheral modules

Recent trends in FPGA devices have seen the incorporation of hard-core IP on the FPGA. For example, certain Xilinx FPGAs have one or more PowerPC CPU cores on the chip – Xilinx calls this the Platform FPGA. At the same time, the recent explosion in the density of FPGA devices has meant that entire hardware-software systems can be prototyped on an FPGA. Such systems often rely on a soft-core CPU as the main CPU in the system.

Altera calls this their Configurable System on Chip (CSoC) solution and relies on the soft-core Nios CPU as the main CPU in the system. Similar solutions from Xilinx use their Microblaze CPU.

The T-Engine has followed the FPGA trend and there are a number of options available to system designers. Devices from both Xilinx and Altera are available to designers using the T-Engine.

FPGA Expansion Boards

The simplest use case for FPGAs in embedded systems is, of course, as a peripheral or a collection of peripherals. FPGA expansion boards based on both Altera and FPGAs are available.


There is a high-end T-Engine based on the Xilinx Virtex 4. This system comprises a 400 MHz PowerPC processor and comes with a wealth of peripherals such as LAN ports, etc. More details about this announcement were mentioned in .

Micro T-Engine

Since the soft-core Nios II CPU does not have a MMU, it is not possible to have a T-Engine system based on it. However, there is a Micro T-Engine based on the Nios II. More details can be found in the press release here. A starter guide for is available at TE@Onghu.