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How to use an Arm Cortex-M processor with Xilinx-based FPGAs and SoCs

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This article was originally published on January 24, 2019.


What do you get when you combine the world's most popular microprocessor with the biggest ecosystem and the world's most powerful programmable logic devices? Unparalleled flexibility, performance, scalability, and real-time determinism. This combination allows increased protocol support, I/O expansion, hardware acceleration, and future-proofed designs.

The best part? No RTL hardware experience is required—anyone can do this with Xilinx's free design tools! And you’ll see how easy it is to build a custom microcontroller in only minutes.



Arm Cortex-M1 and Cortex-M3 Processors

Digital technology is expanding faster than ever, and demand for processing cores at the edge of technology is increasing at an exponential rate. This is evidenced by Arm Cortex-M deployments over the past decade, in which +45billion devices have now been shipped worldwide! Cortex-M processors are enabling the creation of the broadest range of smart embedded devices. Also, as you can see in the chart below, this is the just the beginning because the IoT industry is continuing to explode! 

To be competitive in this market, in addition to both hardware and software you also need solutions that can get your products to market quickly! To do this, developers desire quality tools, a vast ecosystem, and a flexible hardware platform that can adapt to rapidly evolving standards and technologies.


Xilinx Embedded Processing Portfolio

With over 1 billion cost-optimized devices shipped, Xilinx provides the highest performance and most flexible cost-optimized programmable logic devices. Today, we see the need for more performance, reliability, and deterministic processing at the edge. Xilinx offers not only that capability, but also enables customization to build exactly what your design needs!

Figure 1: Xilinx Embedded Processing PortfolioFigure 1: Xilinx Embedded Processing Portfolio


Arm Cortex-M Cores on Xilinx devices

Together, these two solutions make an incredibly powerful combination. Each of the Arm Cortex-M cores is highly-optimized for Xilinx FPGAs and SoCs and are available for Xilinx's free Vivado® WebPACK™ Design Tools. With these tools, you do NOT need any hardware or RTL design experience. Simply drag-and-drop IP from Xilinx's comprehensive IP catalog onto a design canvas and start programming on an evaluation board.

Figure 2: Rapid Time to Market with Simplified Development FlowFigure 2: Rapid Time to Market with Simplified Development Flow

For more information on the Cost-Optimized Portfolio, visit:

For more information on Arm's Design Start FPGA IP, visit:

To download the Vivado Design Suite, visit

About the Author
Cindy Lee is the Sr. Product Marketing Manager in the Adaptive and Embedded Computing Group (AECG) at AMD. In this role, she leads content creation, positioning, and messaging of all AECG products, such as FPGAs, adaptive SoCs, and design tools. Cindy has over 20 years of technology industry experience across several engineering and marketing organizations.