Well, this is interesting on a number of levels. When I first saw an early incarnation of this press release in was entitled “Actel/Microsemi unveils 65nm embedded flash platform.” But when the final version flashed before my eyes earlier today, this had been changed to “Microsemi unveils 65nm embedded flash platform” with no mention of poor old Actel in the subject line at all.
“Hmmm,” I thought to myself (in a very thoughtful way). But reading on we discover that:
Microsemi Corporation, a leading provider of semiconductor technology aimed at building a secure, smart, connected world, announced that its SOC Products Division, formerly known as Actel Corporation, today unveiled its new 65nm embedded flash platform, on which the company's next generation flash-based customizable SOCs (system-on-chips) will be built.
Now, I know that I have a tendency to create long sentences, but this one certainly is a bit of a mouthful (try saying it ten times quickly). I guess that the main thing is that what we used to know as Actel is now to be referred to as the “Microsemi SoC Products Division”
– I don’t know about you, but I think it’s going to take a while for this to catch on.
As an aside, it sort of reminds me of the time when Prince changed his name to be some weird symbol, which reduced the press to making statements like “The artist formally known as Prince….”
Of course the press got their own back when Prince changed his name back to Prince again, because now they could say “The artist formally known as a symbol…”
OK, there are all sorts of things to ponder here. First of all, I’ve come to believe that Microsemi’s acquisition of Actel is going to be real good news for a lot of folks, not the least those folks who are currently using Actel’s FPGAs. It seems to me that they complement each other in so many ways. For example, consider the markets they play in:
So, the combination of Microsemi and Actel allows them to address common markets and applications:
And it really makes sense from the end-user’s point of view. When you are designing a real-world system you typically need a mix of components, including analog discrete devices and FPGAs. Now you can get everything from a one-stop-shop, which should (hopefully) make things easier and (if we’re lucky) cheaper.
Even before this acquisition, Microsemi was growing to be a force to be reckoned with. For example, before the acquisition their estimated 2011 SAM was running at around $2.3B:
Now, with the acquisition, this has risen to a whopping $4.3B:
One of the funny things about acquisitions of this type is that some folks will love it and some will hate it, and the ones who hate it will usually try to confuse the issue by spreading FUD (F
ncertainty, and D
oubt). In this case, there were rumors that Microsemi were poised to start killing off Actel product lines, which seemed a bit forward considering that the two companies had only just got together. As reported in a follow-up article by Dylan McGrath, however, Russell Garcia, Microsemi's executive vice president of marketing and sales firmly stated that Microsemi has no intention of killing off any Actel’s product lines (Click Here
to see that article).
Now, it might just be that Microsemi are back-peddling from some unfortunate statements, but their official position (as I understand it) is that they realize that Actel has some unique technology and that they are going to channel their engineering, marketing, and sales resources to focus on design wins in applications such as aerospace where Actel's low-power, mixed-signal and radiation-hardened FPGAs offer the most value to customers (OK, I’m as guilty of writing long sentences as the next man [grin]).
Contra-wise, they aren’t going to spend time fighting with folks like Altera and Xilinx in mass-market arenas where Actel’s low power differentiation is not valued. In the case of terrestrial (non-aerospace) markets, they’ve actually come up with a brilliant graphic to depict this as shown below (I do like a good graphic):
But I’m in danger of wandering off into the weeds (“No,”
you cry, “say it is not so!”
). The current Microsemi tag line is: “Powering a Smart, Secure, Connected World,” so it’s easy to see how they manage to associate their new 65nm embedded flash FPGAs with this thought:
Featuring a new, expandable 4-input LUT architecture, the company's low power, intelligent mixed signal and system critical FPGAs (which Microsemi refers to as SoCs) will now be available on a state-of-the-art 65nm embedded flash process.
As a result, densities will increase an order of magnitude, offering twice the performance when compared to the previous generation. The new platform will provide 65 percent lower dynamic power while enhancing the Flash*Freeze feature to provide lower static current. Future devices will include industry-standard bus interfaces and also allow integration of hardened intellectual property such as embedded microprocessor cores, DSP blocks, high speed transceivers, memory interfaces, nonvolatile flash memory and programmable analog."More and more, the demand for low power, firm error immunity, security and integration are non-negotiable in today's designs,"
said Esam Elashmawi, vice president of product development at Microsemi's SoC Products Division (formally known as Actel [grin]). "With the move to 65nm, the increase in density and improvements in power and performance allow us to target a much larger portion of the industrial, medical, mil/aero, avionics, communications and consumer markets."
The folks at Microsemi say that they are first to market with UMC's 65nm embedded flash process. This may or may not be true, but this actually isn't the first 65nm embedded flash process. Earlier today, for example, the folks at Lattice Semiconductor announced their new MachXO2 CPLDs, which are implemented using a 65nm embedded flash process from Fujitsu (Click Here
to see that announcement). And Lattice's ECP3 FPGAs also use Fujitsu's 65nm Flash process.
Be this as it may, the guys and gals at Microsemi’s SoC Products Division (formally known as Actel) say that first commercial silicon is already in house, with availability expected first half of 2011. Also that they are concurrently launching their customer lead program for early adopters in the commercial and industrial markets who want early access to emerging technology for their next generation designs.Flash in Space
But wait, there’s more… With over 20 years in the space and avionics industry, Microsemi's SOC Products Division (formerly known as Actel) is offering a sneak peek at the next generation radiation tolerant (RT) flash-based SOCs.
The fourth generation RT FPGAs will feature up to 20 million gates, offering a larger array of flip-flops, memory and hardened embedded IP cores. The devices will include digital signal processing (DSP) blocks, PLLs and high speed interfaces (such as SpaceWire, DDR2/3, PCI Express) to get data on and off chip quickly and efficiently. The new flash-based FPGA architecture provides mitigation to total dose radiation and single event effects (SEE). When compared to SRAM FPGAs, Microsemi's radiation-tolerant flash-based FPGAs have intrinsic configuration immunity to single event upsets (SEU), removing the need for board level mitigation schemes.
Due to the normally long design cycles in the space industry, the folks at Microsemi's SOC Products Division (formerly known as Actel) say they’ve been engaging with customers for over a year now regarding the next generation space-flight FPGAs. (Don’t forget that the 5th Worldwide Actel Space Forum Series will kick off on December 2, 2010 in Los Angeles.)