Deals

In a rare chip funding, Tilera raises $45M for multi-core communications chips

Tilera is one of the leaders in designing chips with many brains, or cores, with as many as 100 on a single chip. The San Jose, Calif.-based company is announcing today it has raised $45 million in a fourth round of funding.

The deal shows that funding for semiconductor companies, particularly those with strong customer traction, hasn’t completely dried up. Chip companies often require $80 million or more just to bring a product to market, so it also isn’t surprising to see Tilera raise such a large round.

Tilera has been shipping its many-core microprocessors since 2007. Customers are concentrated in the cloud computing and communications infrastructure, so Tilera effectively makes sure that the internet stays up and running despite heavy loads from serving videos and other heavy-duty apps. Tilera expects to reach profitability later this year, said Omid Tahernia, chief executive of Tilera, in an interview.

But it needs the money as it undergoes a big expansion, including accelerating development of its fourth-generation processor family. Investors in the new round include Artis Capital, West Summit, Cisco, and Samsung. Existing investors Walden International, Bessemer Venture Partners and Columbia Capital also participated. Other past investors include Broadcom, NTT Finance, VentureTech Alliance and Quanta Computer.

When we wrote about the introduction of the Tile-Gx processors in the past, we noted that the new chip will have many times the performance per watt consumed as Intel’s fastest Nehalem-class server microprocessors. Since it’s difficult for programmers to write software that can keep all the cores busy, the current Intel chips max out at eight cores, and many computer scientists say core efficiency maxes out at 32.

But Tilera has come up with a unique programming model with tools that make the process of creating software to run on Tilera’s chips much easier, such as an ANSI C/C++ compiler, GNU tools and the open source Eclipse integrated development environment. The result, the company claims, is unbeatable performance and performance-per-watt of power used, Tahernia said.

Tilera has 36 and 64-core processors in production, and Quanta is now shipping a TilePro-based server with 512 cores. The company has 150 customers. The first Tile-Gx 100-core processor will be available in engineering samples this quarter. Tilera was founded in 2004 and has 85 employees. To date, Tilera has raised $109 million.

Rivals include Cavium Networks, RMI, Netlogic, Freescale, Intel and others.

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