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CEO interview: Sandra Rivera of Altera on the move to Intel 18A

CEO interview: Sandra Rivera of Altera on the move to Intel 18A

Interviews |
By Nick Flaherty



The spinning out of Altera from Intel is opening up key decisions for process technology over the next few years. Sandra Rivera, CEO of the Programmable Solutions Group (PSG) talks about the plans going forward.

“Everything is requiring more and more compute,” Sandra Rivera at Altera tells eeNews Europe. “The defence sector and aerospace are growing in the US, Europe and India, we see growth in automotive, smarter vehicles, autonomous driving, robotics, industrial, manufacturing, wireless from 5G Advanced and 6G, and AI, AI, AI. Every application and market segment will have some AI. AI will add $3bn by 2028 for FPAGs on a $10bn market.”

This is driving demand for higher performance and higher density with lower power consumption, which is leading to the next generation process technologies. As an Intel company, Altera is naturally in line for the 18A 1.8nm process to be offered  by Intel Foundry Services. This could also ensure that FPGAs are produced in the US to minimise supply chain issues that hit the company hard during the pandemic.

“Our next generation products will be on a new process node, and we are looking at all the process technologies and the next one that looks really appealing is 18A,” she said.  

“One of the things we value about the relationship with Intel is tapping into the technology which will be over time remain the majority owner.”

Agilex 5 is based on the 7nm Intel 7 process, but Altera has traditionally developed its Cyclone and other FPGAs on TSMC process technology.  “TSMC will be a critical partner for years to come with the 2040 commitments,” she said.

“We get to make the best process node decision for our customers and we are happy to be on Intel for many products but TSMC will continue to be a great partner. Having run the datacentre and AI business with the Xeon I’ve seen all the products being introduced with Intel 3. The next generation will be 18A in 2025 so the FPGAs will not be the first. That means the IP will be quite robust by the time we need to make a decision later this year.”

The innovations in backside power for 18A in reducing power consumption and improving density are important in the decision.

Backside power is key to 1nm scaling says Intel

“Sith backside power you get real performance per watt in our fabric which we have today but if you think about what you get with process on your side its quite attractive,” she said.

The company is seeing the FPGA market pick up later this year, largely as a result of the drive for AI but also for automotive.

“Our market for FPGAs is really great, the end user demand is strong but the challenge is there was so much inventory building during the pandemic and the anxiety for customers and that is through H1.

“In automotive we are recommitting to this part of the portfolio with Agilex 3 with power and cost constrained devices, and we will refresh the Max and Cyclone lines.”

Intel looks to 14A process in 2026

A key move was to make the Quartus design tools free to users.

“The way to unlock the innovation is ease of use so a lot will be software, it’s the software, stupid,” she said. “So much of what we are showing in not just the Agilex 5 and Agilex 7 but reference designs and boards with software that is built on Quartus Prime Pro. The time to value can be accelerated if you use a reference design or system on module and that’s what we invest in with our channel.”

The company will develop AI models but is not aiming to be a supplier.

“We will go as far as we need to go to show the art of the possible, demonstrating how you would implement a robotics application, a broadcast application, but only to show all the pieces are there. That’s why you have to invest in the channel as you have to package this up. We go as far as the frameworks,” she said.

www.intel.com

 

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