BRATISLAVA, Slovakia--Fabless FPGA vendor Achronix Semiconductor Corp. has jumped into the SoC market by offering to license its FPGA technology to chip companies.
Achronix (Santa Clara, Calif.) will continue to market high-performance 22-nm FPGAs built by Intel Corp. on a foundry basis. But, in an effort to get into higher volume markets like mobile and consumer applications, Achronix will also license its FPGA fabric to serve as an insurance policy for SoC chip makers against a change in a standard or the need for a respin of the silicon, said John Lofton Holt, Achronix founder and chairman.
Holt announced the addition of licensing to Achronix' business model to industry executives gathered here Thursday (Oct. 4) at the International Electronics Forum organized by Future Horizons.
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To date, Achronix has presented itself as a high-performance FPGA provider seeking to eclipse FPGA market leaders Altera Corp. and Xilinx Inc. Achronix drew attention when it switched foundries to go with Intel in an effort to claim the higher ground.
Achronix' 22i Speedster FPGAs are manufactured using Intel's 22-nm FinFET manufacturing process and come with a variety of high-speed data communications interfaces hardwired. These include 10/40/100G Ethernet MACs, 100Gbit Interlaken channels, PCI Express and DDR3 memory channels.
The HD1000 is a 6 billion transistor FPGA that will become available this quarter. Holt said Achronix would tape-out a 9 billion transistor FPGA in 2013 aimed at the same 22-nm FinFET manufacturing process.
But while high-capacity FPGAs have their place, the space is reserved for relatively low-volume, high-end applications such as communications infrastructure, Holt said. As increasing numbers of SoC projects are delivered behind schedule and need multiple spins, Holt said. Silicon programmability is becoming a necessity for next-generation SoCs, Holt argued.
October is always a troubling month in a Semi cycle trending lower and with cuts looming at AMD and Xilinx announcing cuts in discretionary spending. What they are implying is that they are open to licensing their FPGA fabric to the big 2 - XILINX and ALTERA; other than that the only other player would be Broadcom that is still digesting Netlogic Microsystems; Since their products are geared for high performance and are very expensive it may be a sign from their VCs pushing Management to sign on more customers. Someone may take them out for Pennies on the $
Desperation move. Guess they don't have enough customers for the FPGA. Now they are going to have to shift engineering resources to explaining how the fabric works to the likes of TSMC.
Look for an early demise for this company, Intel or no Intel.
Thanks for the additional insight.
It is the case that very few FPGA fabric licensors have been successful....but some FPGA vendors have turned themselves into application-specific chip vendors.
John Lofton Holt claimed that FPGA fabric licesing would not conflict with selling high-performance FPGAs as the markets, volumes and economics are different.
To the last comment, in addition to IBM, in 2001, Adaptive Silicon launched its licensable programmable logic IP core. We found lots of interest, but the 2001 financial crash limited additional funding, and the company had to close down in 2002. Also with the programmable core taking about 100X the area of custom logic on a gate for gate basis,its use needs to be restricted to flexible IOs, and smaller functional blocks. But conceptually, using reconfigurable cores is better than taping out half a dozen different variants of the same part. Eventually, the technology re-emerged in standard part company Stretch, Inc.
It could be the largest monolithic FPGA. The Xilinx Virtex-7 2000T is ~6.8B transistors but is implemented as 4 dice on an interposer.
It would be interesting to hear what became of the 2002-era IBM offering of Xilinx FPGA cores in their 90nm ASIC products.
Thats really a nice sign. The importance of eFPGAs IP is undeniable.
Indeed the effective connection/interfacing of the 3rd party eFPGA IP with SoC will be a challenge (compared to HardARM FPGAs of Xilinx, Altera), but is much needed move forward for Industry to bring the custom programmablity power of FPGAs in SoCs.
An interesting point is almost all FPGA vendors are/have converged to TSMC. If eFPGA IP marriage really succeeds and SoC-FPGA bet of Xilinx/Altera shoots off, who knows, perhaps in 5 years FPGA vendors augment a competitive eFPGA IP offering too in their business line.
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