Intel committed to FPGAs: ARM IP here to stay

Intel committed to FPGAs: ARM IP here to stay

Business news |
By Julien Happich

“We recognized the world is changing around us. The Altera acquisition was made by a company that has changed, from being PC-centric to becoming cloud-centric. It was not just to get valuable IP, it was an opportunity for us as a provider of technology. That’s the reason why we invest to grow the Altera business, investing in new products with long life cycles”, Gleissner said in his keynote. As a side line, he noted that the average product life cycle at Intel is 12 years.

Referring to Intel’s recently announced Stratix 10 FPGAs, he was hinting at technology that would increasingly find its way into autonomous driving, data centres, 5G infrastructures, and even machine learning.

Re-affirming Intel’s commitment to FPGAs as standalone products, Gleissner continued: “We don’t want to lose the identity of Altera, we make sure it has enough freedom to operate, we give Altera full access to Intel’s internal competences, including access to our manufacturing capabilities”.  

“Several years ago, Intel had this strategy “if it’s not an iCore, we can’t work with it”, but now we focus on creating value for our customers. Sow we have absolute commitment to keep ARM as the default core for Altera’s products and we’ll continue as long as you’ll need it. Of course, there will be other options offered, alternative IP, but we will not be forcing the iCore upon you”, he re-assured the 300+ attendees.

 Peter Gleissner, Intel’s VP for Sales and Marketing and EMEA Regional Sales Director during ISDF 2016.

Gleissner then mentioned data analytics and the cloud becoming more important than physical products. “Often we focus on the products, but the value is in the cloud. It’s not just who does the best motor or best car, but who understands best the data and deploys the right services”, he said, adding that while the consumer cloud has been developed, the industrial cloud has yet to be developed and will contribute to what he described as virtuous cycle of growth for FPGAs.

In a separate meeting, Chris Balough, formerly a marketing director at Altera was keen to emphasize, “Business as usual”, only better.

“Intel has invested a lot in the Programmable Solution Group (PSG) and in the near term plans additional investments. Whatever we would have done as an independent company, we’re going to do it with more resources. We’ll be measured by our financial performance, not judged by how we are helping Intel” he told eeNews Europe.

Chris Balough, Intel´s Senior Director,
Product Marketing for SoC products.

So would Altera (part of Intel), take Intel processors instead of ARM in its FPGAs? To this self-addressed question (probably asked by many customers), Balough answered an emphatic no. “It doesn’t make any sense, considering our customers’ experience with the ARM-based devices, the ecosystem built around ARM, and financially, to force the Intel processor into our FPGAs. We don’t have a religion about using iCores and we don’t feel the need to stamp out ARM”, he said.

“We’d need to find a really compelling benefit to use an Intel processor. But of course, being part of Intel means we have more IP, more knowledge, more packaging expertise, more processor expertise”.

Balough would not comment on possible FPGA fabric integration into Intel processors. “It is not something we are ready to communicate about”. Adding partial reconfiguration into a chip requires an incredibly huge technical support”, he said, “Even for a single block in the chip, you need to provide full support for the whole chip”.

Then talking about fabs: “Foundry wise, it gives us an incredible advantage. Now we’re in the family, the responsiveness we get from the foundry beats the best turnaround times we could get from TSMC. Nothing can be compared to what we can get from Intel, they moved things around for us to get the Stratix 10 in their 14nm process”.

In its 50 years of history, it is Intel’s largest acquisition and Balough considers it a great cultural fit, reminding us that Intel second-sourced Altera in its early days, in the 80s.

“As we looked at FinFET, we decided to move to Intel, but there is no religion there, we could move to TSMC if needed. If there is a technology outside that really makes sense for us to use, then we’ll go for it. We are here to compete and win in the market. I don’t believe we’d see any constraints on this side, we are customer driven”.


Related articles:

Intel samples Stratix 10 FPGAs on 14nm node

Intel Foundry embraces ARM; the start of the end?

Intel gets serious about FPGA integration

Achronix branches out into FPGA IP with TSMC

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