The Microchip Icicle Gets Hot Competition From Sundance DSP's Upcoming PolarBerry System-on-Module

Described as "a single-board computer in a system-on-module," the PolarBerry is an ultra-compact alternative to Microchip's Icicle.

Gareth Halfacree
6 months agoFPGAs

Microchip's freshly-launched PolarFire SoC Icicle development board has some upcoming competition, in the form of the compact system-on-module (SoM) PolarBerry — compatible with a range of carrier boards and built with security in mind.

Launched this week following a pre-order period, the Icicle is Microchip's flagship development board for the PolarFire SoC — a Linux-capable system-on-chip that combines FPGA capabilities with processing cores based on the free and open-source RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA). While Microchip has a head-start on the competition, which is unsurprising given it makes both the Icicle and the PolarFire SoC which powers it, it's not likely to be alone in the market for long: Enter PolarBerry.

"PolarBerry is a System on Module (SoM) SBC utilizing the Microsemi PolarFire SoC, which integrates a low-power FPGA with a highly-secure, four-application-core, 64-bit RISC-V subsystem that is Linux-capable," explains Reno-based Sundance DSP of its design. "PolarBerry is designed to be application-flexible, while also being quick to use and deploy."

"Its combination of features make it perfect for applications that require high-performance but a low power draw, defense-level security, a real-time, deterministic RISC-V processor that’s capable of Linux, a small physical profile, immediate connectivity, or custom extensibility - such as those in the autonomous vehicle or defense industries."

The PolarBerry uses the same PolarFire SoC as the Icicle kit, but packages it into a smaller system-on-module form factor. As standard, the module features 4GB of DDR4 memory, 128Mb of SPI serial NOR flash for boot image storage, 4Gb eMMC for general storage, and has three high-speed Samtec connectors, a gigabit Ethernet port, and a 40-pin general-purpose IO (GPIO) header based on the popular Raspberry Pi pinout. There's also two CAN bus PHYs, breakouts for the FPGA's Bank 1 IO, an SPI interface to the FPGA, and a JTAG interface for debugging.

Like the Icicle, though, the PolarBerry comes with a warning: The toolchain for development is not fully free. Those picking the module up will need to sign up for a Libero Silver License, which must be refreshed annually - though, at present, is free of charge.

More information on the PolarBerry is available on the Crowd Supply campaign page, where you can also sign up to be notified when the campaign launches. Additional details can be found on the Sundance DSP website.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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