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The Sandbox

Posted by jakedaly Employee Nov 22, 2017

Developing in the sandbox

Today's digital applications demand more custom, high-speed processing than ever before. Consider the US Military, who might be monitoring the air for enemy radar pulses. When an enemy pulse is detected, the military can capture and process the enemy's signal, and spit back an altered version of the pulse to confuse the enemy. To be effective, this of course needs to be done blisteringly quick--in real-time. The only way to achieve data processing rates in real-time at these speeds is to use hardware. This can be done with customizable networks of parallelized logic using FPGAs--what the digital community has been referring to as "the sandbox". These customizable play-pens are where designers create artwork. Just as a blank canvas is to an artist, an FPGA sandbox is to a designer. Forward-thinking companies are paying big bucks for engineers to get their hands dirty and play in the sand.



Everybody is talking about the sandbox, but few are playing in the sand.

Unlike the traditional school yard sandbox, the FPGA sandbox can be a daunting one to enter. Firmware design truly is a different animal than the design of sequential software algorithms, and there is a steep learning curve to even get started. Learning FPGA design cannot be taken on as a side project--you won't be able get away with putting an hour a day to learn. Software designers are brought out of their comfort zone with the idea of parallel processing. This parallelization goes against the sequential way of thinking that humans are programmed to do. Debugging can be orders of magnitude harder than debugging a software program; often times it will call for both software and hardware debugging (hopefully you kept that DMM from ECE 1A!). The software tools that are used in firmware development (contrary to let’s say Visual Studio) are not as polished. Error messages are not nearly as helpful and syntax mistakes can be costly. And once source files are successfully compiled, there is a whole 'nother universe called design verification. Separate, gargantuan programs are written (testbenches) which can often times be larger and more complex than the actual component that is being tested. And having an operational testbench does nothing towards guaranteeing that simulated results will map over to hardware. With all of these drawbacks of developing in the sandbox, one should hope that the resulting sandcastles are magnificent sculptures -- and they are! Despite these knocks, the sandbox has still seen an increase in population of engineers capable of programming it. Some of these engineers are abandonees from the world of ASICs, the more-expensive, riskier-to-develop older brother of the FPGA.



Get yourself a nice shovel

 If there is one thing that you can do to maximize your efficiency in developing in a sandbox, it's get yourself a nice shovel and bucket! There are oodles of tools available to those willing to venture down the rabbit hole that is firmware design. Each successive generation of FPGA that comes out is accompanied by a new generation of IP cores and supporting software. Actually, there is an entire industry that is developing who's foundation is based on the development of DSP IP Cores. Aside from a growing sea of IP cores, the newest Vivado builds have more 3rd party software tools (such as MATLAB or Modelsim) stitched into their fabrics. Testbenches thousands of lines of code long have been pre-developed to save engineers time and headaches.


Keysight Technologies provides these tools in various forms, such as the U5340A FDK. This FDK (or “FPGA Development Kit”) is a bundle of software packaged together to ensure the user fast and efficient design creation. Included in these packages are example designs, IP cores databases and predefined components, a script based development and simulation environment, a calibration digitizer, integrated debug facilities, and specific software API. To find out more information about the U5340A FDK, visit You can also explore for more firmware development tools, such as SystemVue or M3602A. Knowing which tools are available to design and debug is half of the battle. The other half? Digging your knees into the sand and grinding away!


Digitizers are a key component in applications ranging from Electronic Warfare, Cyber Warfare, Radar, Quantum Computing, High-Energy Physics, Automated Test, to Research.  We have many resources to help you get the information you need to be successful in your specific application with Keysight’s growing portfolio of digitizers.



On-line tools

In addition to the individual product pages, we have several resources on that are updated regularly and provide useful application information:



Keysight representative

You can call or e-mail your Keysight representative. If you don’t know who to call, Keysight Contact Center details can be found at:

Note that the details provided on this page depend on your geography, so please be sure to select the correct region or country at before visiting it. You can do this via the “globe” icon at the top-right corner of the web page.

Contact An Expert



Contact an expert

You can also navigate to this contact page from any digitizer product page – simply click on the “contact an expert” link. This can also be found near the top-right corner of the web page.



Web enquiry

If you simply want to send your inquiry via a web form, and have someone from Keysight call or e-mail you, then select the “Support Specialists” tab on the contact page, and click on the “Technical support request” link.

Technical Support Request

On August 1st 2017, Keysight restructured its high-speed digitizer portfolio to focus on PXIe/AXIe products. At that time, Acqiris SA became the sole supplier of Keysight's historic PCIe-based digitizers, focused on OEM applications in industries such as life sciences and imaging. Customers looking for the PCIe blog can now find it at


With regards to discontinued PCIe-based digitizers, Keysight has retained ownership and continues to be the first point of contact for repair and calibration services. As such, customers should continue to work with their local Keysight sales/application engineer or local Technical Contact Center if they need assistance.


For clarity, the lists below show which models are supported by Keysight, and which are supported by Acqiris.


Keysight Technologies - Active Products:
      M9203A      M9703B      M9709A      M9710A      U1092A      U5300A      U5340A


Keysight Technologies - Discontinued / Supported Products:
      M9202A      M9210A      M9211A      M9703A      U1050A      U1051A      U1056B      U1056C

      U1062A      U1063A      U1064A       U1065A      U1066A      U1067A      U1068A      U1069A

      U1070A      U1071A      U1080A       U1081A      U1082A      U1083A      U1091A      U1093A


Acqiris SA:
      U1061A      U1084A      U5203A       U5303A      U5309A      U5310A



For more information about Keysight AXie and PXie solutions, please call or e-mail your nearest Contact Center. Details of your nearest center can be found at

TSR option: Triggered Simultaneous Acquisition and Readout



The purpose of the TSR option is to acquire in multi-record mode and read the data simultaneously.

This solution allows longer acquisition compared with a standard DGT and it is dedicated to applications requiring no trigger loss.



In a Triggered Simultaneous Acquisition and Readout TSR, the readout of the data is performed during the acquisition. The readout can be performed as soon as a programmable number of records is acquired.

Each record is triggered by an external or software trigger.


 TSR Acquisition Mode



TSR Acquisition Mode


After initiating the acquisition, when the 1st trigger occurs, the digitizer module records data and stores it into a circular buffer which can be read simultaneously.


In TSR mode, the data rate can be sustained without losing any trigger. The maximum performances of the system depend on the record size and trigger rate of the application.

The triggers can be periodic or not. In addition, TSR solution is very efficient for applications with high trigger rate during a limited period followed by a gap before the next trigger burst.


Supported models 

M9703B, M9203A



TSR option implements an optimal and automated control of memory addressing. It results in an easy to use solution if compared with solutions requiring memory bank management.

Moreover, the user does not need to select the number of records dividing the memory which is automatically defined by the driver provided with the digitizer and depends on the memory option and the number of samples per records.

For maximum performance, it is recommended to optimize the number of record to be acquired before the readout starts. Typically, if the number of samples per record is low, reading several records in one single Direct Memory Access (DMA) optimize the DMA transfer, with a compromise between memory readout frequency and PCIe delay.


Keysight related products:



For more information about our AXie and PXie solutions, please contact us at

Keysight High-Speed Digitizers Team has developed several acquisition modes with the objective to optimize performances of the M9710A, M9709A, M9703B  AXIe and M9203A PXIe digitizers.



DGT: Standard DiGiTizer mode.

TSR: Triggered Simultaneous acquisition and Readout.

CBx: Continuous Simultaneous Acquisition and Readout

         CB0: digitizer streaming and recording (with 1 GS/s and 1.6 GS/s)

         CB1: digital down-converter streaming and recording (with 1 GS/s)

         CB2: digital down-converter streaming and recording (with 1.6 GS/s)


For more details about the CBx Options, click here:


Supported modes per digitizers 

















√ CB2



DGT option: Standard Acquisition (single or multi-records)


With this option, the readout of the data is performed after the acquisition has stopped.

The acquisition data rate supported is up to the maximum allowed by the digitizer.

           Single record acquisition

Standard Acquisition and Readout

Standard Acquisition


          Multi-record acquisition

Standard Triggered Acquisition and Readout

Standard Triggered Acquisition And Readout

Supported models

M9710A, M9703B, M9709A, M9203A.


For all acquisition modes or options, the user can define:

  • the record size
  • the number of records
  • a positive or negative trigger delay (as illustrated in the figure below)
  • the trigger source: channel, external or software (or from the AXIe SYNC for M9703B, M9709A and M9710A)


Triggering options 


Additional features depending on the digitizer:

  • Acquisition Memory: The maximum number of sample that can be recorded depending on the digitizer model and accordingly to the selected on-board memory option.
  • Interleaving: On digitizers with INT option, two channels can be interleaved doubling the sampling rate (INT option, available on M9203A, M9703B).
  • External clock: The sampling rate can be tuned using an external clock reference (you can refer to product datasheet for supported frequency range).
  • Decimation: lower sample rate can be achieves using programmable binary decimation. When enabling the decimation, the resulting sampling rate becomes:

                                 Effective sampling rate= (Sampling rate)/(Decimation ratio)
With Decimation ratio=2^n

(Supported n values depend on the digitizer model; details about memory, supported effective sampling rates, etc. can be found in your digitizer user manual available on the product webpage.)


This introduction aims to provide you a first overview of the different acquisition modes. In the next post, we will talk about the TSR option: Triggered Simultaneous Acquisition and Readout.


Keysight related products:



For more information about our AXie and PXie solutions, please contact us at

The New Catalog for Modular Products has been issued and includes the M9203A PXIe High-Speed digitizer, the M9703B, the M9710A and the M9709A AXIe High-Speed digitizers. For more information, click here.


PXI and AXIe Products and Solutions Catalog


For more information about our AXie and PXie solutions, please contact us at

This presentation describes the differences between digitizer and oscilloscope measurements and explains how the trade-offs will impact your wideband measurement results.

Wider communication bandwidths are used more and more to keep up with the changes in wireless communication standards as well as for many aerospace & defense industry programs. Regardless of the carrier frequency, digitizers and oscilloscopes are key tools for wideband analysis. The challenges associated with wideband measurements lead us to think differently about our measurement instrument selection because using the correct approach will greatly improve your measurement results.

Key topics:

  • Differences in measurement fidelity
  • How to address automation or events and triggering
  • How to identify glitches or infrequent events
  • The best way to implement multi-channel, coherent measurements

Use cases from wireless and A/D applications will be included.


To access the presentation click here.


For more information about Keysigth High-Speed Digitizers, please contact us at

Multi-Module Capability Ensures Very High Channel Density

Key Features:

-New AXIe high-speed digitizer with up to 10 GS/s sampling rate

-4 channels, 10-bit, DC up to 2.5 GHz bandwidth

-Multi-channel applications in advanced physics experiments, and aerospace & defense


Keysight High-Speed Digitizers Team announces the new M9710A 10-bit AXIe high-speed digitizer running at 10 GS/s. With high dynamic range across a wide 2.5 GHz bandwidth, this digitizer is ideal for multi-channel applications in advanced physics experiments, and aerospace & defense.


The new M9710A AXIe module features up to 4 DC-Coupled input channels, a very high sampling rate up to 10 GS/s and a long on-board acquisition memory up to 8 GB in a compact single-slot AXIe form factor.

This new module includes proprietary ICs developed by Keysight. In particular, the LDNA front-end amplifier IC provides single ended to differential outputs to the interleaved ADC. The resulting channel performance in interleaved ADC mode remains unaltered thanks to a low noise architecture and distortion contribution, which is 15 dB lower than the ADC specification.

Build Multi-Channels Data Acquisition Systems

Based on the modular AXIe architecture, the M9710A high-speed DAQ is scalable and extensible to provide a fully operational multichannel system on a compact format. It combines high channel density, measurement fidelity and high throughput to build acquisition systems with high channel count and fast, accurate measurements in a compact form factor. The architecture provides a fully operational system, with an offer of 2-, 5- and 14-slot AXIe chassis.

For instance, up to thirteen M9710A high-speed digitizers can be inserted in the M9514A 14-slot chassis providing a 52 channels 10-bit system.

"With its new design and outstanding performance, such as flat SFDR over a large analysis bandwidth combined with minimum overshoot on fast pulse and exceptional low noise input level, the M9710A targets time and frequency domain applications" said Pierre-François Maistre, High-Speed Digitizers Project Manager, Keysight R&D Digital & Photonics Centre of Excellence. "With its new proprietary ICs, it provides better measurement fidelity at higher sampling rate over larger bandwidth".

AXIe is an open system, and users can choose between 8-, 10-, and 12-bit high-speed digitizers’ resolution and mix and match modules and chassis.

Moreover, multichannel acquisition software AcqirisMAQS, designed specifically for large multichannel acquisition enables configuration management as well as visualization of data for hundreds of channels from a single console.

Additional information about product configuration and pricing is available at

For more information about our AXie Solutions, please contact us at


M9710A AXIe High-Speed Digitizer, 4 channels, 10-bit resolution, up to 10 GS/s, and DC to 2.5 GHz bandwidth.

Your test goal is to quickly capture many different signals generated from an event and re-construct the data for review and analysis. Timing and synchronization of the signals must be perfectly aligned in order to properly reconstruct the original event. Some signals may require further processing or conversion such as those acquired through transducers. How do you ensure test results are accurately captured? The challenges of complex high-speed multichannel acquisition systems are discussed further in this article.

Test system challenges
When collecting large amounts of data to reconstruct real-time and fast transient or single-shot events engineers face several test challenges. Selecting the best instruments to construct a reliable test system for data collection is most important. Capturing multiple real-time signals generated during the event requires a high-speed digitizer that can make many very fast, accurate measurements. The performance of the digitizer determines the quality of the signal measurements, with accurate triggering and timing across all the channels to ensure reliable reconstruction of the acquired data. Channel synchronization can become an even greater challenge as the number of monitored signals grows, requiring a complex multi-channel test system configuration.
Various transducers, detectors or instruments such as photomultiplier tubes (PMT), beam current transformers, spectrometers, or fast diodes may be used to capture energies that contribute to the reconstruction of the actual event. Measurements and reliable conversions are needed to accurately calculate the true energy source measured by transducers.
Other considerations include software, space and power. Software provides system control, measurement conversions, data storage management and signal analysis. Accommodating a small test area and limited power can be managed by selecting a digitizer in a format that offers flexibility for high channel count, power management and a smaller footprint such as PXI or AXIe.

A combined AXIe hardware and software solution offered by Keysight Technologies includes the AXIe M9703B and M9709A digitizers with the U1092A-S0x Acqiris MAQS multichannel acquisition software. The M9703B and M9709A digitizers provide 8 channels with 12-bit resolution or 32 channels with 8-bit resolution, respectively and enable synchronized channels across AXIe chassis for systems with up to 96 channels. On-board FPGA, consisting of four Virtex-6 FPGA, provides real-time processing for data reduction. The flexible AXIe configuration includes a chassis and controller with triggering and clock options for channel synchronization. Very fast data capture with measurement fidelity at GHz speed ensures crucial data is capture. Low noise and high dynamic range of the analog-to-digital conversion instill confidence in the acquired results for detailed event analysis.

An ideal test system for this application would provide accurate data capture, many fast reliable measurements, synchronized channels, precision triggering, system control, fit into a specific test area and be within power limits while achieving extreme speed and precision measurements.

For more information on the AXIe digitizers and use for large physics experiments click here:

For more information about Keysight High-Speed Digitizers, please contact us at



On the Microwaves & RF Magazine, you'll find our article, illustrating how a modular digitizer/receiver can simplify the implementation of multichannel signal-acquisition systems with continuous data recording and display. Here below pdf version:

Managing Multichannel Signal-Acquisition Data_MWRF



For more information about Keysight High-Speed Digitizers, please contact us at

Modular digitizers are at the heart of data-acquisition systems and, with appropriate architecture and software, can perform well as oscilloscopes. Of course, a digitizer has an analog front end, and for best results, it needs to match your signal: differential or single-ended, voltage range, floating or grounded, 50 Ω or 10 MΩ, etc. The digitizer’s ENOB combines accuracy, resolution, noise, and distortion so all of these factors must be optimized to result in a high ENOB. If a higher ENOB device is available that also suits the rest of your requirements, your measurements will be more accurate, although probably more expensive as well. Whether a digitizer is used as a scope or DAQ system, trade-offs are necessary when you require high performance. As shown via the products that have been discussed, very high-resolution measurements are restricted in speed. Very high-speed measurements typically need more power and more volume in which to dissipate it. The highest speed modules cost more and typically don’t have a large number of channels. And, if you already have developed part of a PXI/PXIe test system, multiple PXIe digitizer modules may be more economical than opting for a high channel-count AXIe module. However, there are many hybrid systems that mix formats to advantage and some hybrid chassis that support them. Read full article on Evaluation Engineering Magazine:


32-channel M9709A 8-bit digitizer samples at up to 1-GS/s, accommodating signal frequencies up to 500 MHz. Up to 16 GB of onboard memory supports synchronous data acquisitions.

The M9703B AXIe, 12-bit high-speed digitizer/wideband digital receiver is now used for MIMO tests in 5G.

5G is aiming to achieve gigabytes per second data rate anywhere, anytime, employing new technologies such as massive MIMO and millimeter wave broadband. More info on Youtube



For more information about Keysight High-Speed Digitizers, please contact us at

Keysight newsroom announces today the development of a highly dense, 64 synchronous multichannel data acquisition system. The system is composed of eight M9703B AXIe high-speed digitizers in a 14-slot chassis and was developed for an enterprise leader in satellite telecommunication systems, where its main requirement was multichannel synchronization and FPGA programming capability.


Keysight modular solutions, based on AXIe products, are extremely compact. This allows reduction of size while increasing the number of acquisition channels. With an innovative design, the system has eight digitizers within one chassis. The synchronization is realized through its unique AXIe local bus backplane. Up to 13 modules could potentially be installed in the chassis for a total of 104 channels.


“The key element of this system is the AXIe multi-channel multi-boards synchronization capability, which make possible a high-speed, multi-channel data acquisition with customized, real-time signal processing and unique phase coherency,” said Pierre-François Maistre, Keysight R&D project manager. “We already have validated this 64-channel data acquisition system according to our customer’s requirements and we are now looking at potentially enlarging it up to 104 channels.”



For more information about Keysight High-Speed Digitizers, please contact us at