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One issue with today’s modern design flow is the access to “Trusted Fabs” for confidential designs. Just too many eyes in the process flow to assure that a confidential design can be kept confidential. To use some technology requires at least part or all of the chip-making process to go overseas. Some would say this is a crisis for accessing fabs below 14nm.
As noted in this article: “People in the aerospace and the government communities want to get embedded FPGAs,” said Geoff Tate, chief executive of Flex Logix. “But they want them built in the U.S. They want finFET-class performance, so that leads you to GlobalFoundries. Being in the U.S. seems to make them feel comfortable. One issue, of course, is assurance of supply.”
Hence the DoD and DARPA are working with suppliers of eFPGAs like Flex Logix and other tools to develop trusted platforms and are using obfuscation, even if built in the U.S., for some highly classified designs.
There are many articles written about eFPGA and FPGA security including “Are FPGAs More Secure Than Processor?” as a detailed description of the different security solutions that eFPGAs can provide. One solution is quite simple and that is obfuscation: add eFPGA to the SOC and then program the confidential parts of your design after manufacturing in a non-trusted fab as shown in the diagram below:
Although the picture previously gives a good idea of what can be done with an eFPGA inside a SOC, what if you have more than one location that needs security? Basically only hide the critical parts of the design in multiple locations of the SoC as shown below:
By using smaller eFPGAs throughout the design the user can obfuscate parts of their design and have flexibility in the future for new requirements. eFPGAs have many other benefits you can read about here or you can just read what customers say here. Next time you need secrecy think eFPGA.
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