Just enough FPGAs in SoCs
Others in the industry may still regard Achrnoix' entry in the embedded FPGA IP business as a bit of a distraction for the start-up.
There has long been pent-up demand for FPGAs among volume consumer
SoC companies making handsets or tablets, Holt argued. Look no
further than Altera's family of low-cost, low-power FPGAs for the consumer market. Another example is SiliconBlue
Technologies, which was acquired by Lattice Semiconductor, which targeted its low-end FPGAs for consumer electronics devices such
as smartphones and media tablets.
The difference here is that
Achronix plans to license FPGA fabric as IP so that consumer chip
companies can use “just enough FPGAs” in their SoCs, Holt explained.
The reason consumer electronics chip companies are clamoring for FPGA
solutions is "risk mitigation,” said Holt.
“Programmability can limit the number of tape-outs.” As the consumer
SoC’s die gets larger, it’s helpful to use part of the die
Add to that, standards are constantly
evolving for consumer products. “There are things that hardwired SoCs
just can’t do,” Holt noted.
Moreover, FPGAs excel at doing
complex logic very fast. “FPGAs are good at flexible acceleration of
certain functions” on SoCs, explained Holt.
Achronix plans to announce its first embedded FPGA IP licensee in the first quarter of 2013.
out that the design cost for 22-/20-nm chips could range from $20 million to $50
million, according to recent cost estimates by Cadence, Holt said SoC
companies would have to sell as many as 60 million to 100 million units to break even. Minimizing the number of tape-outs becomes extremely
important for SoC cost savings, he added.
long as there are SoC vendors looking to use FPGA fabric in a portion of
their SoCs, IP seems like good business for Achronix. The company
believes it can leverage the technology it has already developed.
Holt said Intel's "one-stop shop" is a huge advantage when compared to working with
other foundries that may require a fabless chip company to work with many partners. More important, being an Intel customer confers credibility and quality assurance, especially among global supply managers. “Sure, we may be paying extra for wafer cost," Holt said.
"But think about the high yield rate Intel brings. This is paying off for
Holt said Achronix is still planning to go public in 2014, but “it’s not like my ego is tied to the
IPO.” The first thing Achronix must do is “become a profitable
company within the 12 to18 months” after it starts sampling new FPGAs.