Achronix came to SemiWiki in 2017 and we added a chapter on the history of Achronix in our update version of “Fabless: The Transformation of the Semiconductor Industry”. So yes we know quite a bit about Achronix and the FPGA business so it was a pleasure to do a CEO Q&A with Robert Blake. First lets take a look at his biography:
“Robert Blake has worked in the semiconductor industry for over 25 years. Prior to Achronix Semiconductor he was the Chief Executive Officer of Octasic Semiconductor based in Montreal, Canada. Mr. Blake worked at Altera in a variety of sales, marketing and general management roles. As Vice President of Product Planning he was responsible for defining Altera’s programmable logic product solutions. He has been developing ASIC and programmable logic for high speed telecom and network applications for over 17 years. Prior to Altera, he worked at LSI Logic and Fairchild where he developed ASIC technology. He holds a MEng. in Business and Microelectronics and BSc. in Applied Physics & Electronics from the University of Durham in England.”
How is Achronix’s managing through the current business climate? Are you seeing any changes in demand for Achronix FPGA and eFPGA IP?
Achronix continues to accelerate the development of both our 7nm Speedster7t FPGA product family and our Speedcore eFPGA IP. Even with the expected slow down in the global economy this year we will have a record year for sales with strong demand for all of our new products including Speedster 7t FPGAs, Speedcore eFPGA IP and our new VectorPath accelerator cards. We are seeing new design activity for our products in all geographies and target markets including compute acceleration, communications infrastructure, 5G wireless, test and measurement and most recently automotive. I am proud of the seamless transition that our worldwide employees have made to working from home. We have provided all of our employees the resources, connectivity and home office equipment necessary to ensure they can maintain their productivity. We are continuing to hire broadly in sales, design and software engineering, application and marketing. Overall this is the time for Achronix to push firmly on the accelerator peddle to ensure we will exit this global pandemic with a strong product portfolio and expanded global workforce to support new design activity with our products.
What customer requirements will drive further innovation in the FPGA industry?
Customers ask for our help to innovate their products. Our technology can be applied to solve a broad range of data acceleration challenges. At a high level, they need more system performance, but they must deliver this performance at a lower cost and reduced power consumption. Our products blend ASIC level performance and power efficiency with the flexibility inherent in FPGAs, that enables them to quickly adapt to changing workloads and algorithms. These requirements, especially the need to adapt to ever changing data processing requirements, will drive continued innovation in the FPGA industry.
What is Achronix’s strategy to differentiate and compete with Intel and Xilinx?
Unlike some of our competitors, we recognized very early that there are three critical components required to build the best FPGA for data acceleration applications. First, we needed to develop the most flexible logic, embedded memory and advanced compute engines. Next, we needed very high bandwidth external memories (GDDR6) and seamless connectivity to the highest performance PCIe and Ethernet interfaces – Speedster7t includes multiple ports of PCIe Gen 5 and 400G Ethernet. The third, and probably most critical component of our Speedster7t FPGA family, is the addition of a very high performance, low latency 2D NoC. High speed compute and networking applications require computation on vast amounts of data and the Speedster7t 2D NoC is the highest bandwidth and most efficient way to move this data between the communications ports, external memories and the core compute or data processing fabric. The data in these applications is like the fuel flow to a high performance engine. If you starve the engine of fuel you lose performance. We have solved all these problems in our new Speedster7t FPGA family.
Why did Achronix start offering eFPGA IP in addition to standalone FPGA devices?
The strategy to offer eFPGA IP was obvious if you simply look at the trends in the semiconductor industry for the last 50 years. Companies integrate more functionality. They look at components that are on their printed circuit boards and ask three simple questions: are adjacent product compatible from a silicon process standpoint; will they add value if integrated; and will they improve performance, reduce power consumption and reduce board area? Back in the 80’s, most companies used standalone CPUs from Motorola or National Semiconductor. Then ARM came along and offered a large range of CPU cores for integration. Achronix has quickly established ourselves as the leader in delivering high performance eFPGA IP cores. Our customers have integrated custom sized eFPGA IP with exactly the resource mix of logic and memories and compute engines that their application requires. They are already being used in high volume applications with greater than 10M eFPGA IP cores shipped per year.
The primary reason to integrate embedded FPGA fabric is higher performance. Integration eliminates performance and latency bottlenecks between an ASIC and a standalone FPGA, but there are other significant advantages as well including up to 90% reduction in BOM cost and less than 1/2 the power consumption when compared to standalone FPGA solution. Achronix is the only company to offer both high performance standalone FPGA devices and a cost migration path to integrate that same technology into a customer ASIC. We believe this will be a growing trend where unique data acceleration challenges cannot be adequately solved by off-the-shelf FPGA solutions and where Speedcore eFPGA IP is a perfect fit.
What applications are you targeting for your new 7nm Speedster7t FPGA?
Speedster7t FPGAs address a growing need for data acceleration challenges in applications such as networking, data center, test and measurement, compute acceleration, AI/ML, 5G and military applications.
How do you think Achronix’s business will do over the next 3 to 5 years?
Achronix financials are strong and our innovative technology portfolio will enable us to enjoy significant growth over the next 3-5 years. We have tremendous interest from an expanding customer base that will use our latest generation products to deliver new levels of performance innovations in their products. We continue to invest in both our hardware and EDA software tools together with our partners to accelerate the design phase and adoption of our technology. During this challenging time we will continue to innovate and find new ways to effectively deliver our technology into customer’s systems. We are exited about our future.
About Achronix Semiconductor Corporation
Achronix Semiconductor Corporation is a privately held, fabless semiconductor corporation based in Santa Clara, California and offers high-performance FPGA and embedded FPGA (eFPGA) solutions. Achronix’s history is one of pushing the boundaries in the high-performance FPGA market. Achronix offerings include programmable FPGA fabrics, discrete high-performance and high-density FPGAs with hardwired system-level blocks, datacenter and HPC hardware accelerator boards, and best-in-class EDA software supporting all Achronix products. The company has sales offices and representatives in the United States, Europe, and China, and has a research and design office in Bangalore, India..