The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company has designed field-programmable gate arrays, or semiconductor chips that can be programmed by a customer or designer after the chip is physically manufactured. Such chips come with large blocks of logic that can be configured using a design tool. Of course, Achronix is not the only one in the field — Intel acquired Altera, one of the largest makers of FPGAs, for $16.7 billion in 2015, and another big rival is Xilinx, which had $2.2 billion in revenues in its last fiscal year.
Achronix is shipping to customers today, with a focus on compute and network acceleration applications. The Speedcore intellectual property known as embedded FPGAs (eFPGA) is meant to be embedded in chips made by other companies. The previous family of Achronix Speedster 22i FPGAs has been shipping since 2013.
With Speedcore, customers specify the optimal chip size, power consumption, and resource configuration required for their end application. Customers define the quantity of look-up tables (LUTs), embedded memory blocks, and DSP blocks. Additionally, customers define the Speedcore aspect ratio and IO port connections and can make tradeoffs between power and performance. Achronix delivers a database of the Speedcore IP that customers integrate directly into their own chips.
“Over the years, different companies have talked about eFPGA products, but Achronix Speedcore is the first eFPGA IP to ship to end customers, and it is a game changer,” said Robert Blake, president and CEO of Achronix Semiconductor, in a statement. “Achronix was the first company to deliver high density FPGAs with embedded system level IP. We are using that same proven methodology to deliver our eFPGA technology to customers who want to combine all the efficiencies of ASIC design with the flexibility of eFPGA programmable hardware accelerators on the same chip.”
The company targeted the compute and networking space, because computing in the data center can’t keep up with the exponential explosion of data, changes in security procedures, and software virtualization requirements. Data center machines need hardware acceleration, but the exact solution often changes. That’s where it makes sense to choose FPGAs over custom chips, which are pre-designed before manufacturing.
“Designers have long sought the inherent advantages that could come from embedding FPGA functionality as IP into SoCs for a host of different high performance applications,” said Richard Wawrzyniak, principal analyst at Semico Research, in a statement.
Achronix has now delivered eFPGA IP to customers who are developing high-performance computing products where offloading compute intensive functions from processors to FPGA IP can provide a tremendous performance boost. While an exciting opportunity for Achronix, seeing FPGA IP become a reality is great news for the semiconductor industry, particularly when you consider the large market opportunity for compute high-performance applications.
Speedcore is now broadly available. Investors in Achronix include New Science Ventures, GKFF, Entrepia Ventures, and Easton Capital Group. The company has raised more than $140 million since it was founded in 2004, and it has nearly 100 employees. Rivals among startups include Flex Logix, Menta, Nanoxplore, Efinix, and Adicsys.