On February 21st, 2017, Xilinx® announced the introduction of a new technology called RFSoC with the rather dramatic headline “Xilinx Unveils Disruptive Integration and Architectural Breakthrough for 5G Wireless with RF-Class Analog Technology.”
The proposition was simple; add RF-class analog to digital and digital to analog data converters to Xilinx’s already powerful MPSoC, ARM processor enhanced family of high performance FPGAs. And, while the concept was simple, the implications were profound, changing the way engineers could design and package small, high channel count systems. And, this technology not only offers new possibilities for 5G applications, but has significant impact in military and scientific systems, justifying the claim in Xilinx’s announcement.
To get better appreciation of the capabilities of RFSoC and understand how to best use the advantages of this technology, it’s worth taking a quick look at current trends in data converters and signal processing.