Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Intel opens manufacturing doors to Achronix! Becomes mini foundry?

For those who are not aware, yesterday, Achronix Semiconductor Corp. announced strategic access to Intel's 22nm process technology, and plans to develop the most advanced FPGAs.

According to the release, the Achronix Speedster22i FPGA family will shatter existing limitations of FPGAs, allowing cost effective production of high performance devices over 2.5M LUTs in size, equivalent to an ASIC of over 20 million gates.

What's really interesting in all of this is the involvement of Intel and Achronix's use of Intel's 22nm technology.

Now, about two weeks ago, Intel announced investment plans between $6-$8 billion on future generations of manufacturing technology in its American facilities. This will fund deployment of Intel’s 22nm manufacturing process across several existing US factories, along with construction of a new development fab in Oregon. The projects will support 6,000-8,000 construction jobs and result in 800-1,000 new, permanent high-tech jobs.

Following this Achronix activity, could it be just the beginning where Intel also allows several others to make use of its latest process technologies, or is it going to be a one-off thing? Probably, the first one! Here's why!

On visiting Intel's site, there's a blog post by Bill Kircos, director, Product and Technology Media Relations, Global Communications Group at Intel.

He says: "With Achronix, we are selectively offering access to our 22nm fabs. For perspective, this deal would only make up a tiny amount of our overall capacity, significantly less than 1 percent, and is not currently viewed as financially material to Intel’s earnings. But it’s still an important endeavor for us that we’re committed to deliver on. I can tell you the folks over at Achronix are very excited about the opportunity and the expected performance boosts they will see in their Intel manufactured products. We are too."

Bill has asked for readers' views on Intel opening up its manufacturing facilities to others. I have given a thumbs up!

Intel has become a mini foundry for the time being. Depending on whether customers find some 'alignment' -- which am sure they will -- this looks to be a good move on part of Intel.

Finally, I had a very excited caller this morning -- an industry friend -- who simply gushed -- 'you should write about this'!

My guess: he and several others are likely to approach Intel for assistance, if not now, then surely in the near future. Smaller companies would stand to benefit in the long run if they can have access to Intel's latest process technologies. Of course, we are talking about really sophisticated chips here!

While we have to see what GlobalFoundries and TSMC have to say, Intel's latest move will probably make it an interesting level-playing field among foundries.

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