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A Comprehensive Guide to Versal™ FPGA Platform

9 May 2024

versal AI core circuit with fidus and AMD partner logo

Overview of the Versal FPGA Platform

The Versal FPGA platform marks a revolutionary advancement in programmable technology, spearheaded by AMD as a flagship component of its Adaptive Compute Acceleration Platform (ACAP). Distinguished by its versatile architecture which integrates Scalar Processing Engines, Adaptable Hardware Engines, and AI Engines, Versal offers unprecedented adaptability and performance capabilities. This makes it suitable for a vast array of applications spanning numerous sectors including automotive, aerospace, and data centers.

Versal FPGAs merge various functionalities including ARM-based processors, programmable logic cells, and dedicated AI accelerators into one cohesive platform. This integration simplifies system design and enhances performance by enabling specialized tasks that previously required multiple distinct components. As Fidus Systems specializes in delivering high-quality, complex FPGA designs, the incorporation of Versal into our portfolio allows us to offer clients cutting-edge solutions that streamline development processes, reduce time to market, and enhance product performance.

In this blog post, join us as we explore the Versal FPGA platform, covering topics such as:

  • Overview of the Versal FPGA Platform
  • What is Versal FPGA?
  • Evolution of FPGA, from Zynq US+ to Versal
  • Zynq UltraScale+ vs. Versal
  • Importance of FPGA in Modern Tech

Importance of FPGA in Modern Tech Applications

FPGAs in modern technology

Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) are increasingly crucial in the landscape of modern technology. Known for their flexibility, FPGAs allow for post-production modifications in functionality, which means they can adapt to new standards or changing customer demands without necessitating a complete hardware redesign. This adaptability is vital in today’s rapidly evolving tech world, where agility, efficiency, and performance are key.

Leveraging FPGA for Cutting-Edge Solutions at Fidus

At Fidus, our expertise in advanced FPGA design and development is exemplified by our utilization of the Versal platform, which allows us to leverage its AI and adaptable hardware capabilities. This ensures our clients benefit from top-tier, flexible, and efficient solutions that are aligned with industry-leading standards.

The ability to reconfigure FPGAs to perform specific tasks, coupled with the performance akin to dedicated hardware, positions them as a superior choice in various applications. The integration of AI directly into the FPGA, as seen with Versal, is a game-changer, enhancing the platform’s capabilities to support smarter, faster, and more power-efficient systems. Fidus’s commitment to leveraging such advanced technologies underscores our dedication to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, ensuring our clients are equipped with the most advanced, reliable, and effective solutions.

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Discover more about how the Versal FPGA platform can transform your projects and enhance your technological capabilities. For detailed information on how to integrate this technology into your development strategy, visit our page on building for AMD Versal Adaptive SoCs and FPGAs and consider partnering with Fidus for your FPGA design needs.

What is Versal FPGA?

Definition and Core Components of Versal FPGA

Versal FPGA, developed by AMD, stands as a foundational component of the Adaptive Compute Acceleration Platform (ACAP). This next-generation platform revolutionizes the field programmable gate array (FPGA) landscape by integrating more than just traditional FPGA elements.


Versal FPGA Architecture Overview

The architecture of the Versal FPGA is a testament to AMD’s commitment to innovation in the field of programmable logic devices. This heterogeneity is key to Versal’s ability to serve a broad spectrum of applications, from edge computing to the data center, by enabling tailored computing that aligns with specific workload demands. Here’s a closer look at the primary components that make up Versal’s architecture:

  • Scalar Engines: These engines are built around high-performance ARM Cortex-A72 cores, designed to handle the control plane and application processing tasks. The Scalar Engines manage standard processing tasks efficiently, ensuring that the system runs smoothly and responsively.
  • Adaptable Engines: At the heart of Versal’s adaptability are its Adaptable Engines, which include the next generation of Xilinx’s FPGA fabric. This programmable logic allows for the customization of hardware to specific tasks, providing the flexibility that traditional fixed hardware solutions cannot match. Whether it’s custom interfaces, bespoke signal processing, or unique data manipulation tasks, the Adaptable Engines can be configured to meet precise operational requirements.
  • AI Engines: The AI Engines are specialized processing blocks optimized for high-throughput, low-latency workloads typical of modern AI and machine learning applications. They are capable of performing complex computations like convolution and matrix multiplication extremely efficiently, which are fundamental operations in deep learning algorithms.

Architectural Advantages for Diverse Computing Needs

Versal’s architecture is designed to provide significant advantages across a range of computing environments:

  • Versatility: The combination of Scalar, Adaptable, and AI Engines allows Versal to tackle diverse computational tasks, from general-purpose processing and custom hardware acceleration to advanced AI computations. This versatility makes Versal suitable for a wide range of applications across various industries.
  • Performance and Efficiency: Each component of the Versal architecture is optimized for its specific function, which enhances overall system performance and efficiency. AI Engines, for example, are tailored for machine learning tasks, reducing the need for extensive general-purpose compute resources, and thereby saving energy.
  • Scalability: Versal is scalable, capable of serving small-scale edge devices to high-demand data center applications. This scalability is crucial for businesses that need a single architecture that can be deployed across multiple platforms and applications, ensuring consistency, and reducing development time and costs.
  • Integration: With its high-bandwidth NoC (Network on Chip), Versal enables high-speed communication between the different types of engines and the external memory interfaces. This integrated approach simplifies system design and boosts data throughput, reducing bottlenecks typically associated with heterogeneous computing systems.
  • Future-Proofing: As technological requirements evolve, Versal’s programmable logic ensures that the same hardware can be reconfigured with new capabilities, extending the lifecycle of the device, and protecting investments in technology infrastructure.

Capabilities and Industry Impact

The Versal FPGA platform is designed to cater to a variety of industries, ranging from data centers and automotive systems to telecommunications and defense. Its robust computational capabilities and flexibility make it ideal for applications requiring rapid processing, adaptable configurations, and energy efficiency.

  • Data Centers: In data centers, Versal FPGAs enhance operations by accelerating workloads such as video transcoding, database management, and cloud computing. Their ability to be reprogrammed on-the-fly allows data centers to adapt to new algorithms and technologies without extensive hardware changes, ensuring longevity and ROI on infrastructure investments.
  • Automotive and Aerospace: For automotive and aerospace industries, Versal FPGAs contribute to safety and functionality by supporting advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), flight navigation systems, and on-board data processing, all while adhering to stringent reliability and safety standards.
  • Telecommunications: In the rapidly evolving telecommunications sector, Versal FPGAs are pivotal in deploying 5G technologies and beyond, managing high-speed data transmissions, and enabling network flexibility to support future upgrades and standards.
  • Healthcare: Versal’s AI Engines are particularly beneficial in healthcare applications, supporting medical imaging, diagnostic analytics, and patient monitoring systems with enhanced data processing capabilities.

The introduction of the Versal FPGA is a significant milestone in the FPGA market, pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved with programmable logic technologies. By offering a platform that combines flexibility, performance, and power efficiency, AMD’s Versal FPGA not only meets current technological demands but also sets the stage for future innovations across multiple industries. Fidus Systems’ expertise in leveraging such advanced technology ensures that our clients have access to the best-in-class solutions, tailored to meet their specific operational needs and strategic goals.

Evolution of FPGA: From Zynq UltraScale+ to Versal

Historical Perspective and Technological Advancements

The journey from Zynq UltraScale+ to Versal represents a significant evolution in FPGA technology, reflecting broader trends in computing towards greater versatility and integration. The Zynq UltraScale+ family, introduced by Xilinx, marked a pivotal development in integrating high-performance ARM Cortex-A53 processors with FPGA fabric, catering primarily to embedded systems applications that required both processing power and flexibility.

With the introduction of Versal, AMD (following its acquisition of Xilinx) took this concept further by enhancing the integration of software programmability with hardware adaptability. Versal, described as an Adaptive Compute Acceleration Platform (ACAP), extends the FPGA paradigm by integrating more diverse computational engines, thus broadening the scope of applications and performance metrics significantly.

Comparative Table: Zynq UltraScale+ vs. Versal

FeatureZynq UltraScale+Versal
Core ArchitectureDual-core ARM Cortex-A53Quad or Dual-core ARM Cortex-A72
PerformanceUp to 1.3 GHz processing speedHigher processing speeds with AI optimizations
Memory TypeDDR4 supportDDR4/LPDDR4X support
Processing System (PS)Integrated Processing System and Programmable LogicEnhanced PS with more advanced multicore processors
Programmable Logic (PL)Artix/Kintex grade FPGA fabricUltraScale+ density with advanced FPGA fabric
AI and DSP CapabilitiesLimited to integrated DSP blocksIncludes AI Engines for machine learning tasks
Network on Chip (NoC)Basic InterconnectsHigh-bandwidth NoC for improved data flow
SecuritySecure boot and cryptography featuresAdvanced security features including secure boot and authentication
Peripheral SupportExtensive peripheral integrationMore advanced and versatile peripheral integration
Price PointGenerally lowerHigher due to more advanced features
Target ApplicationsEmbedded computing, moderate performance applicationsHigh-performance, compute-intensive tasks such as AI and data analytics
Comparative Table: Zynq UltraScale+ vs. Versal

This table highlights the key technological enhancements that Versal brings over Zynq UltraScale+, emphasizing its suitability for more demanding applications that require higher performance, advanced security, and significant AI capabilities. The Versal platform’s introduction is poised to meet the needs of next-generation applications, ensuring that developers and engineers have access to the most advanced tools in the industry. Fidus Systems leverages these advancements to provide state-of-the-art solutions, ensuring our clients stay ahead in a competitive technological landscape.

Versal Adaptive SoCs and System on a Chip

Exploring What Makes Versal a Powerful Adaptive SoC

Versal stands out as a powerful Adaptive System on Chip (SoC) due to its hybrid architecture that combines the flexibility of programmable logic with the efficiency of dedicated processing blocks. This adaptive SoC design allows Versal to excel in environments where workload requirements are dynamic and demand high levels of computation.

At its core, the Versal Adaptive SoC architecture includes:

  • High-performance ARM processors, providing robust control and processing capabilities.
  • Programmable logic, similar to traditional FPGAs, can be tailored for specific tasks, offering unparalleled flexibility.
  • AI Engines, designed specifically for accelerating machine learning algorithms and data analytics.

System-level Benefits of Using Versal SoC

The Versal Adaptive SoC delivers several system-level benefits that make it highly attractive across various industries:

  • Flexibility and Scalability: Versal can be programmed to meet specific requirements of an application, which means it can be used across a wide range of industries from telecommunications to automotive and aerospace, scaling as needed.
  • Enhanced Performance: By integrating different types of compute engines, Versal can handle diverse workloads efficiently—be it standard data processing, complex AI tasks, or real-time signal processing.
  • Power Efficiency: Versal’s architecture is optimized to provide higher performance while consuming less power, crucial for mobile and edge computing devices.
  • Reduced Time to Market: With a significant part of the system being programmable, Versal can adapt to new standards or changing technological needs without the need for extensive redesigns, accelerating product development cycles.

Fidus Systems leverages the capabilities of Versal SoCs to craft customized solutions that are optimized for specific client needs, ensuring that they benefit from cutting-edge technology tailored to their unique requirements.

Programming the Versal AI Engine

Overview of AI Engine Capabilities

AMD Versal AI Edge Gen 2
AMD Versal AI Edge Gen 2

The Versal AI Engine is specifically designed for high-performance machine learning (ML) and data processing tasks. It provides a robust environment optimized for operations such as convolution, matrix multiplication, and other complex algorithms essential for AI workflows. The AI Engine’s architecture enables it to execute multiple operations concurrently, significantly boosting performance and efficiency in AI applications.

Step-by-Step Guide to Programming the AI Engine

Programming the Versal AI Engine involves several steps to ensure optimal performance and utilization:

  • Define the AI Model: Start by defining the AI model or algorithm you intend to implement. This model will dictate the configuration and programming of the AI Engine.
  • Set Up the Development Environment: Utilize the Vitis AI development environment provided by AMD. This platform includes tools and libraries specifically designed to aid in developing, optimizing, and deploying AI models on Versal AI Engines.
  • Code Optimization: Write and optimize your code using the high-level synthesis (HLS) tools that convert C++ or Python code into programmable logic.
  • Simulation and Testing: Before deploying the code onto the AI Engine, simulate it to check for any logical or performance issues.
  • Deployment: Once the simulation is successful and the code is optimized, deploy it to the AI Engine on the Versal SoC. Use the Vitis AI tools to facilitate the deployment process.
  • Monitoring and Tuning: After deployment, monitor the application’s performance and fine-tune as necessary to ensure optimal efficiency and performance.

Versal FPGA Development Workflow

Detailed Walkthrough of the Development Process

The development process for programming Versal FPGAs involves several key steps, from design conceptualization to implementation and testing. Here’s a streamlined walkthrough:

  • Specification: Define the project requirements and specifications. This includes determining the functionalities, performance metrics, and necessary resources.
  • Design and Modeling: Use high-level synthesis (HLS) tools to model the FPGA’s logic and functionality in a high-level programming language such as C++ or Python.
  • Simulation: Simulate the designed model to test for correctness and performance issues. This step helps identify bugs and optimization opportunities early in the development cycle.
  • Implementation: Convert the high-level model into a low-level design that can be implemented on the FPGA. This involves synthesis, placement, and routing using FPGA design tools.
  • Hardware Testing: Deploy the design on the FPGA and perform hardware testing to ensure the FPGA operates correctly in a real-world scenario.
  • Iteration: Based on testing results, iterate on the design to optimize performance, reduce resource consumption, or rectify any issues.

Tools and Software Used for Programming Versal FPGAs

Several tools and software are utilized in the development and programming of Versal FPGAs, primarily provided by AMD, including:

  • Vitis Unified Software Platform: Provides a comprehensive suite for developing applications across hardware and software components, facilitating integration with AI and software functionalities.
  • Vivado Design Suite: Used for more traditional FPGA design tasks including synthesis and analysis, offering powerful debugging and optimization tools.
  • Vitis HLS: Enables developers to convert C++ code into hardware description language, which can be synthesized into digital circuits.

Security Features of Versal FPGA

Three key security features of modern technology devices

Comprehensive Overview of Built-in Security Features

Versal FPGAs come equipped with robust security features designed to protect against both physical and logical threats. Key features include:

  • Secure Boot: Ensures that only authenticated software can run on the device, preventing unauthorized code execution right from the initial boot phase.
  • Hardware Root of Trust: Built-in hardware features that provide a foundation for secure operations, including key storage, cryptographic functions, and secure enclaves.
  • Encrypted Configurations: Allows the configuration data of the FPGA to be encrypted, protecting intellectual property and sensitive data.
Comparison with Previous FPGA Generations

Compared to earlier FPGA generations like the Zynq UltraScale+, Versal FPGAs offer enhanced security measures such as more advanced encryption capabilities, integrated secure elements for key management, and broader support for industry-standard security protocols.

Power Consumption Analysis

Discussion on Versal’s Power Efficiency

Versal FPGAs are designed with power efficiency in mind, crucial for applications in edge computing and mobile devices where power consumption is a significant concern. These FPGAs incorporate several features to minimize power usage:

  • Dynamic Power Gating: Reduces power consumption by turning off unused portions of the chip.
  • Voltage Scaling: Adjusts the power levels according to the processing load, enhancing overall energy efficiency.

Comparative Power Usage Data with Other FPGA Platforms

Versal FPGAs generally exhibit lower power consumption compared to other FPGA platforms, especially when factoring in the power efficiencies gained from the integrated AI and DSP cores. This integration allows for more effective processing per watt of power consumed, setting a new standard for power efficiency in high-performance FPGA designs.

Through these advancements in workflow, security features, and power efficiency, Versal FPGAs present a highly capable and secure platform for modern high-tech applications, aligning with Fidus Systems’ commitment to delivering high-quality and efficient technological solutions.

Fidus Case- studies in Versal FPGA Implementation


AI Edge Series for Software Defined Radio (SDR)

In the realm of Software Defined Radio, Fidus utilized the AI Engines within the Versal platform to revolutionize signal processing capabilities. The implementation involved advanced algorithms for adaptive filtering and signal conditioning, showcasing the AI Engines’ ability to handle complex mathematical operations and real-time data processing. This has enhanced the overall functionality and responsiveness of SDR technologies, crucial for telecommunications and broadcasting sectors.

AI Core Series for RADAR Applications

For RADAR applications, Fidus leveraged Versal’s AI and DSP (Digital Signal Processing) acceleration engines to optimize the detection and processing tasks. By integrating custom kernels and algorithms tailored for RADAR signal analysis, Fidus was able to reduce logic resource consumption and power usage while increasing the speed and accuracy of RADAR systems. This application highlights Versal’s capabilities in defense and aerospace, where precision and efficiency are paramount.

Premium Series for Mil/Aero Applications

In military and aerospace applications, Fidus developed custom hardware solutions using Versal FPGAs to meet the rigorous demands of these sectors. The designs featured high-density compute capabilities and robust form factors, compliant with stringent standards such as the SOSA™ (Sensor Open Systems Architecture). These implementations emphasized Versal’s ability to deliver high-performance computing in environments that demand high reliability and advanced security features.

Prime Series for CXL Solutions

In the computing sector, particularly for data centers, Fidus engineered CXL (Compute Express Link) solutions based on the Versal architecture. These solutions targeted enhancements in data throughput and processing capabilities, necessary for managing next-generation data-intensive applications. By employing UVM (Universal Verification Methodology) for verification, Fidus ensured these solutions were both robust and scalable, demonstrating Versal’s suitability for advanced IT infrastructures.

How These Implementations Showcase Versal’s Capabilities

Each of these use cases exemplifies how Versal’s heterogeneous architecture—combining scalar, adaptable, and AI engines—provides a multifaceted platform that can be tailored to meet diverse and demanding requirements. Fidus’s implementations underline the platform’s robust adaptability, high performance, and efficiency across varied applications.


The Versal FPGA platform has demonstrated a remarkable capacity for driving innovation across multiple sectors, thanks to its versatile architecture and powerful computational abilities. Fidus Systems has skillfully utilized these features to deliver customized, leading-edge solutions that significantly enhance client operations and product offerings.

Future Outlook on FPGA Technology and Its Applications

Looking forward, the role of FPGAs, particularly platforms like Versal, is set to expand further into areas such as AI, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT). As these technologies evolve, the demand for more adaptable, secure, and efficient computing solutions will rise, positioning FPGAs as a critical component in the next wave of technological advancements.

Fidus invites you to explore the potential of Versal FPGA solutions for your projects. Whether you are pushing the boundaries in telecommunications, defense, aerospace, or data processing, partnering with Fidus can provide you with tailored, efficient designs that leverage the cutting-edge capabilities of Versal FPGAs. Discover how our customized FPGA solutions can elevate your applications—visit our “Build for AMD Versal® Adaptive SoCs and FPGAs” page today and embark on a journey of innovation and superior performance with Fidus Systems.

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