Achronix branches out into FPGA IP with TSMC

October 11, 2016 // By Peter Clarke
Achronix Semiconductor Corp. (Santa Clara, Calif.), known as a supplier of high-performance FPGAs based on the Intel 22nm FinFET process, has announced the availability an embedded FPGA fabric for license and integration in SoCs.

While the company is branching out into FPGA fabric licensing it will continue to offer stand-alone FPGAs and Achronix is expected to offer a next-generation FPGA soon. But will they make use of Intel's 14nm FinFET process or will Intel's acquisition of Altera make a move to TSMC necessary? (see Intel samples Stratix 10 FPGAs on 14nm node ).

But for now the focus is on Speedcore; essentially the core of the Speedster22i FPGAs – without the high-speed Serdes and I/O – available in different sizes to drop into system chips designed in TSMC's 16FF+ FinFET process or Intel's 14nm FinFET process. Achronix states that the Speedcore FPGA fabric will also be available for licensing and use in TSMC's 7nm process in the first half of 2017.

The benefit of FPGA fabric compared with a separate FPGA. It is that signals don't need to suffer the power consumption and latency of going off-chip. This can result with accommodating thousands of lines in and out of FPGA and approximately 10 times higher bandwidth, 10 times lower latency and 50 percent lower power. And by saving parts and printed circuit board space this can result in 90 percent lower cost Achronix said.

How Speedcore eFPGA eeduces power and cost compared with stand-alone FPGA. Source: Achronix.

FPGAs are inherently less efficient in area than fully diffused silicon but they bring the advantage of configurability and reconfigurability. About ten years ago stand-alone FPGAs have found a niche in compute and communications infrastructure and architectures based on multi-core CPUs and FPGAs have become conventional. Standalone FPGAs are convenient for low to medium volume applications but the ablility to integrate processor and FPGA fabric for hardware acceleration shows potential.

Licensible FPGA fabrics have been offered before without great success partly because of problems over design flow. But at the levels of integration now being offered it is perhaps an idea whose time has come. Achronix has