Altera are an industry leader in the world of FPGAs but learning how to work with their boards can be a challenge for those who are not familiar with FPGA programming. Indeed, software developers that come from desktop environments may also struggle with the different paradigm, and with timing and resource challenges. The good news is that there is some quality Altera training available that can get developers and designers up to speed with Altera FPGA technology quite quickly.
Altera themselves offer a range of courses called the Intel FPGA Technical Training Program. There are some online courses, and some that are held face-to-face as well. The Stratix 10 Hyperflex courses, for example, include a virtual class option which is delivered online, in bite-sized chunks. Let’s take a look at the training options available to you:
The instructor-led courses tend to be one to two days long and are taught by an instructor that is happy to answer questions as you go. The courses include a mixture of presentations and hands-on exercises, so that students can use development boards to solve real-world problems
If there are no training centers in your area, then you can attend the same course in a virtual classroom context. These courses are taught in 4-6 hour long sessions, which are spread over a couple of days. You have the same access to a qualified Intel FPGA instructor, and you will view the same presentations, then do hands-on exercises. You will still be limited to specific dates and times for the courses, but since they are remote you can do the course from home or at work.
If you are a little more experienced, and just want to get up to speed with Altera-specific issues (perhaps you have experience with other company’s FPGAs) then you may want to try the shorter online courses. These vary in length depending on the subject matter, but start at 30 minutes in length, and offer a quick introduction to the topics. With these short videos, you will not have the option to ask for help from the instructor, and there will be no guided hands-on exercises.
You can access Intel’s FPGA training via Altera.com, and sign up to courses, manage your training credits, and ask questions on the website.
There’s no need to restrict yourself to Altera’s own courses, however. there are many other companies that offer training. In general, the best option is to look for a company that is an official Altera Technical Training Partner (ATTP), because these partners have access to the latest information and new developments and will have gone through an in-depth certification process. Some popular training centers for Altera FPGA chip design from http://www.directics.com and programming include:
Hands on Training offers courses based on Altera FPGAs. The courses are modular, so developers and designers can choose the modules that suit their needs, and build a course based around their schedule and the amount of time they are able to commit to study. Companies can request bespoke training courses, and HandsOnTraining will offer advice and guidance and work with them to make a course that is the correct length, with the labs and content that will suit the experience level of the expected attendees. There are courses to suit a range of different industries, and the labs are tailored to the needs of the company too. The courses provided by Handson-Training.com use the latest development tools from ALDEC and MontorGraphics. There are training sites in Israel and in Europe.
Doulos is another company which offers training for ALTERA design and development, including HDL design flow training, and advice on the latest tools and technologies. There are a number of courses, manuals, and development companions. If you are on the fence about whether to choose Duolos, you can use their free online webinars to get an idea of the production values and the content, as well as their instructional style. There is a wealth of resources in the KnowHow section of the Duolos.com website, and these resources will prove invaluable for would-be developers.
The training program ranges from a simple VHDL for FPGA Design course, which will get designers up to scratch with VHDL over a 1-3 day long module. This module is available standalone, or as a part of a course called Comprehensive VHDL, which covers everything that you would need to know to write RTL code that is efficient, robust and re-usable.
There is an Expert VHDL course which is aimed at those who are working on more complex designs, who will need to know how to write time-efficient code that is robust and easy to maintain. There are also specific courses for Altera Cyclone, Nios II, and other chips.
Another quality training provider, with public and private courses in the US and Europe, is Acceleware. This company offer professional four-day long courses into design and development for Intel FPGAs, including Altera-specific content such as compiling OpenCL kernels to Altera FPGAs and optimizing hte kernels for size or throughput.
The courses are taught by programmers who have a wealth of real-world experience, and who know how to work with everything from multi-threaded CPUs ot GPUs and of course FPGAs. The training includes both classroom-based lectures and hands-on exercises, and the class sizes are kept as small as possible to ensure that each and every student gets plenty of attention.
In addition to running public courses, Acceleware.com also offers private on-site courses for employers. They will travel to the client, including internationally, and will tailor the course content to the needs of your business.
To get the most out of the course, students should understand pointers, functions, printing to standard output, memory management, arrays and indexing, structures and general debugging. It is also helpful, but not required, for them to understand lower level programming languages, multithreading, and optimization. The courses are fast-paced, so a solid technical understanding is useful to ensure that attendees get the most out of the hands-on exercises.