MADISON, Wis. — Achronix Semiconductor, a privately held FPGA company founded in 2004, reached a critical juncture this year with projected 2017 revenue in excess of $100 million — a 700 percent increase in 12 months.
What’s going on here?
Partly, it’s just a matter of serendipity. Mostly, the story is about how Achronix devised a flexible strategy to profit from an overheated market in which today’s players are so eager to pay for hardware accelerators that facilitates artificial intelligence and machine learning.
In an interview with EE Times, Robert Blake, Achronix president and CEO, made it clear that the firm’s anticipated $100 million revenue was never a “goal.” It’s simply based on six months of revenue and a backlog of orders. Blake said, “This will happen.”
Boosting Achrnoix today is the explosive demand for hardware accelerator devices. This applies to practically everyone in the tech world — ranging from cloud giants such as Google, Amazon, Baidu and Microsoft designing data centers to automakers who need a powerful AI-driven chip inside their robo-cars. They’re all on a hunt for devices that can offload CPU data processing and execute a wide range of compute tasks fast and efficiently.
FPGA behemoths like Xilinx and Altera (now owned by Intel) are similarly profiting from the same fast-paced market trend. Achronix, a mid-range FPGA vendor, has to pick its battles selectively with those big boys battle, fending off competition from up and coming startups like Flex Logix.
Loring Wirbel, a senior analyst at The Linley Group, told EE Times that Achronix “has a design vehicle that can be used in a variety of SoC-based or pure ASIC-like design environments for acceleration. Machine learning, SQL acceleration, all of them represent good targets.”
During an interview, Achronix laid out a three-pronged strategy in efforts to diversify its product portfolio.
Today, that portfolio consists of Speedster — launched in 2013 — a high-performance, high-density standalone FPGAs for targeted applications. Achronix added in 2016 Speedcore, a high-performance, embedded FPGA (eFPGA).
Later this year, Achronix will unveil another product line called Speedchip, FPGA-based chiplets designed for MCM and 2.5D package solutions. While Achronix isn’t announcing details just yet, Blake called Speedchip “essentially an ASIC” developed per customer basis.
While the majority of Achronix’s revenue today is from standalone FPGAs (Speedster), the CEO predicts that by 2020, half of the business will be generated by Speedcore (eFPGA), with the rest split by Speedster (35 percent) and Speedchip (15 percent).
Next page: Competitive landscape for eFPGA