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Does Altera Have “Big Data” Communications on the Brain?

In wireless, wireline and financial big-data applications, moving all those packets needs prodigious FPGA resources, not all of which Altera had before its recent series of acquisitions, partnerships and otherwise wheeling-and-dealing.

I caught up with an old friend at April’s DESIGN West 2013 conference in San Jose: Chris Balough, senior director, product marketing for SoC products at Altera. I knew Chris from when he was at Triscend (purchased by Xilinx). Chris is now in charge of Altera’s SoC products which are Arria V, Stratix V and Cyclone FPGAs with ARM cores in them which compete with Xilinx’s Zynq devices. Chris shed some light on some of these announcements, but remained mum on what they all might mean taken collectively. I think they add up to something big in “Big Data.”

X before A? We’ll See
Subconsciously I think of Xilinx first when the word “FPGA” is flashed in front of me, but Altera’s the company pushing more boundaries of late. Their rat-a-tat machine gun announcements this year got my attention.

In the summer of 2012, I did an interview with Altera’s senior vice president of R&D Brad Howe and he spread out as much of the roadmap on the table as he could. Things like HSA, OpenCL, and better gigabit transceivers were all on the horizon. Shortly thereafter, Altera extended their relationship with TSMC to 20nm for Arria and Cyclone FPGAs. Then in early 2013, they rocked the industry by locking up an exclusive FPGA relationship with Intel for the industry’s only production 14nm tri-gate FinFETs.

Spring Cleaning ; Altera’s Getting Ready For…?
Now in Spring 2013, Altera is making headlines like these:

FPGA Design in the Cloud–Try It, You’ll Like It, Says Plunify. (See our February 2013 article with Plunify at http://eecatalog.com/fpga/2013/02/06/practical-applications-of-cloud-computing-in-semiconductor-chip-design/).

Altera and AppliedMicro will Cooperate on Joint Solutions for High Growth Data Center Market.

Altera Expands OTN Solution Capabilities with Acquisition of TPACK.

Altera Stratix V GX FPGAs Achieve PCIe Gen3 Compliance and Listing on PCI-SIG Integrators List.

Altera to Deliver Breakthrough Power Solutions for FPGAs with Acquisition of Power Technology Innovator Enpirion.

altera
The blue regions show places where FPGAs are used in wireless LTE basestations. (Courtesy: Altera.)

My Take: Altera’s Move in Big Data

Analysts estimate that nearly 50 percent of the revenue in FPGAs comes from high end, high density, costly FPGAs like the Xilinx Vertex 7 and Altera Stratix V. Segments like wireless and wireline packet processing, plus financial or image processing algorithm processors increasingly rely on these kinds of FPGAs in lieu of ASICs, GPGPUs, or proprietary network processors. So every advantage in IP, process technology, or partnership that Altera has, gets the company one step closer to more design wins. We’ll see what Altera does with all of these recent announcements.


ciufo_headshotChris A. Ciufo is editor-in-chief for embedded content at Extension Media, which includes the EECatalog print and digital publications and website, Embedded Intel® Solutions, and other related blogs and embedded channels. He has 29 years of embedded technology experience, and has degrees in electrical engineering, and in materials science, emphasizing solid state physics. He can be reached at cciufo@extensionmedia.com.

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