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Tiny ARM+FPGA COM tips, embedded Linux revs up

Feb 19, 2014 — by Eric Brown 3,239 views

Denx announced a tiny module based on the hybrid Cortex-A9/FPGA Altera Cyclone V SoC, and also released v5.5 of its venerable ELDK embedded Linux platform.

Denx is formally launching the 74 x 42mm “MCV” computer-on-module at Embedded World 2014, Feb. 25-27 in Nuremberg, Germany, along with version 5.5 of its Embedded Linux Development Kit (ELDK) platform and distribution (see farther below). The pioneering Gröebenzell, Germany based embedded Linux house, which created U-Boot, among other contributions, continues to develop a variety of Linux-ready embedded embedded systems and COMs, such as its Freescale i.MX53x based M53 module.

Denx MCV
(click image to enlarge)

The new MCV COM showcases Altera’s Cyclone V system-on-chip, which mixes the FPGA logic of Altera’s Stratix V FPGAs with a Linux-ready “Hard Processor System” (HPS) that consists of a pair of 800MHz ARM Cortex-A9 cores. The two susbystems are linked by high-speed AXI interconnects. Other recent COMs based on the SoC include Critical Link’s MityARM-5CSX and iWave’s Qseven form-factor iW-RainboW-G17M-Q7.

Altera Cyclone V SoC block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Denx offers four different FPGA options for the MCV, ranging from an A2 model with 25K logic elements (LEs) and 36 DSP blocks, to an A6 version with 110K LEs and 87 DSP blocks. It also offers a shared multiport DDR SDRAM controller in the HPS, as well as a hard memory controller for the FPGA block. The module ships with 1GB of DDR3 RAM and 256MB of NAND flash.

The MCV provides considerable customization options for the ARM/HPC subsystem. Standard features include gigabit Ethernet, USB, UART, CAN, SPI, and I2C interfaces. Options include one or more display controllers, as well as additional helpings of all of the above I/O except for USB and UART interfaces.


A “hard” PCI- Express Gen. 1 expansion interface for the FPGA block is also optional, along with a camera port and an undefined “microcontroller.” A pair of Samtec QSH-090-01-F-D-A board-to-board interconnects express I/O to a carrier board.

Specifications listed for the MCV include:

  • Processor — Altera Cyclone V 5CSX SoC:
    • 2x 800MHz Cortex-A9 cores (1x optional) and NEON precision FPU, connected via 102Gbps AXI with FPGA
    • FPGA options, all with 6x transceivers @ 3.125Gbit/s, include:
      • A2 (5CSXFC2C6U23C7N) — 25K LEs, 36 DSP blocks
      • A4 (5CSXFC4C6U23C7N) — 40K LEs, 58 DSP blocks
      • A5 (5CSXFC5C6U23C7N) — 85K LEs, 87 DSP blocks
      • A6 (5CSXFC6C6U23C7N) — 110K LEs, 112 DSP blocks
  • Memory:
    • 1GB DDR3 SDRAM
    • 256Mbit “configuration device”
    • 256MB NAND flash
  • Standard I/O signals available on bottom-side connectors:
    • Gigabit Ethernet
    • UART
    • CAN
    • SPI
    • I2C
    • USB
  • PCIe expansion — 1x Gen1 PCI Express x1 lane (3.125 Gbit/sec)
  • Additional options may include:
    • One or more display controllers
    • Second Gigabit Ethernet
    • CAN, SPI, I2C
    • Camera interface
    • DSP blocks
    • Microcontroller
  • Expansion connectors — 2x Samtec QSH-090-01-F-D-A (on bottom)
  • Power — 3.3V supply
  • Dimensions — 74 x 42mm
  • Operating system — Linux (via ELDK) with U-Boot

ELDK 5.5

Denx’s Embedded Linux Development Kit (ELDK) embedded distribution has long been a mainstay of industrial embedded developers looking for hardened, real-time Xenomai extensions to Linux. The latest version does not appear to offer any major new features, but updates its open source components all around. ELDK is based on Yocto Project Linux code, and features Qt 4.8.5 and the complete GNOME Mobile Platform.

ELDK 5.5 fully supports Denx’s aforementioned M53 COM, as well as its earlier i.MX287 based M28 COM. Both modules are supported with dedicated versions of U-Boot, the Linux kernel, drivers, and Xenomai, says Denx.

ELDK 5.5 features are said to include:

  • U-Boot v2013.10
  • Linux kernel 3.10.20 LTS
  • Yocto Project code
  • GCC 4.8.1, binutils 2.23.2, GDB 7.6, eglibc 2.18
  • Native dev. tools including autoconf, bison, flex, gcc, g++, gdb, libtool, m4, make, patch, perl, python, Qt 4.8.5, rpm, rpmbuild, etc.
  • Supports x86, MIPS, Power, ARM, XScale
  • GNOME Mobile Platform, including X11 Window, Matchbox Window Manager with Sato ref. implementation GTK+ 2.24.20, D-Bus, GStreamer, Pimlico, OpenGL UIs using Clutter
  • Xenomai support
  • Emulation of target devices
  • Eclipse IDE plugins
  • Supports host distros including Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, CentOS, OpenSUSE, RHEL, SLES


At Embedded World, Denx is also showcasing TechNexion’s EDM1-CF-iMX6 module, acting in the role of distributor and “service provider for hardware and software design services,” according to the company. The Freescale i.MX6-based COM, which is also distributed by Avnet, complies with TechNexion’s open EDM (Embedded Design Modules) standard. EDM defines three COM sizes usable with both ARM and x86 CPUs.

Further information

Starting later this month, pre-production hardware should be available for the MCV COM, with ELDK Linux support following soon thereafter. There was no word on pricing or full-production availability of the MCV. Meanwhile, v5.5 of the ELDK is available now for free download, here. More information may be found at the Denx Embedded World announcement, as well as the MCV and ELDK product pages. Denx will be showing its products, along with TechNexion’s EDM1-CF-iMX6 COM, at Embedded World 2014, Feb. 25-27 in Nuremberg, Germany, at the Denx booth 560 located in Hall 1.

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