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Altera chief focuses on innovation

Posted: 01 Jul 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:altera? john daane?

Altera Corp. President and CEO John Daane believes that innovation is the most important element in dealing with problems associated with next-generation processes. The company, Daane says, is focused on maintaining a high level of commitment to innovation while keeping up with the competition.

Finding a processor with the right mix of features, reducing product cost and achieving system performance are creating bottlenecks in leading-edge technologies. However, Altera is confident that its system-on-a-programmable-chip (SOPC) devices are better equipped than other solutions.

The company's Stratix FPGA family powers complex designs with high levels of system integration. The HardCopy structured ASICs, meanwhile, are for designers needing low-cost, high-density logic. On the other hand, the Cyclone series of low-cost FPGAs provides the benefits of programmable logic at price points competitive with ASICs and ASSPs.

65nm ramp

Altera's R&D group is now working on 65nm products. Using a 65nm logic manufacturing process for SoC design allows designers to build circuits with double the density of those produced with the company's 90nm manufacturing technology.

Although the 90nm to 65nm transition is very costly, development can be seen in companies involved in microprocessors, DSPs, memory and programmable logic.

"There are few companies that can afford to do this design mark because of cost and next-generation technology rising rapidly. Altera is one of the few that pursued 90nm and 65nm," said Daane.

He added, "The advantage of programmable technologies is that they can be sold to multiple customers and get enough revenues to justify the investment. Most ASICs and ASSPs couldn't justify the cost that a company needs to pay for 65nm."

Altera is maintaining its subcontracting agreement with chipmaker giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. The company has taped out and received functional prototypes of 65nm designs, including devices in areas of logic and memory, for initial validation and benchmarking. Tape-outs of production devices are expected to reach TSMC this quarter.

Growth opportunities

The California-based company is aggressively investing in R&D and has painted a picture of strong growth opportunities in the coming years.

"The semiconductor industry has its ups and downs. In some years, we might not grow as fast as we expected. I believe Altera will grow greater than 20 percent per year in revenue. And we will continue to invest, whether it is a strong or weak year in the semiconductor industry," Daane said.

In a world of ever-increasing chip complexity and shrinking process sizes, timing closure will certainly become more difficult and inevitable. No solution will succeed unless it provides maximum flexibility without compromise for inferior technology, and is quick enough for a broad range of design flows.

With its eye on the future, Altera is actively studying usage models for technologies, allowing flexibility to help customers bring successful and timely designs to market. Its FPGAs are positioned to displace costly, high-risk ASIC or ASSP solutions, and offer a viable, more flexible alternative to DSPsdelivering value to a much broader market than was previously addressed by programmable logic.

- Kathryn Gerardino

Electronic Engineering Times-Asia

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