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High hopes for Xilinx's new chief

Posted: 03 Mar 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:CEO appointment? Moshe Gavrielov? EDA tools? FPGA?

Gavrielov: The goal is to take the very, very solid base that Xilinx has in its current business and the technology we have, and to move it forward more effectively to address more applications so that we can cater to a larger market and grow our business more.

The search is over.

After months of scouting for the best person to take the reins from Willem Roelandts, Xilinx Inc. has appointed Moshe Gavrielov as its new president and CEO. Gavrielov becomes only the third CEO in the company's 24-year history. Most recently, he served as executive VP and general manager of the verification division at EDA tool supplier Cadence Design Systems Inc. Before that, Gavrielov spent seven years as CEO of Verisity Ltd.

One of the big surprises is that Xilinx went outside for a new leader. Some observers thought that one executivepossibly Omid Taherniawould become the next CEO, at one time.

In October, however, startup Tilara Corp. named Tahernia as its new president and CEO. Tahernia was previously the VP and general manager of the processing solutions group at Xilinx. Tahernia's departure was seen as a blow for Xilinx; he was the face of many of the company's FPGA announcements.

On the other hand, some observers also believe that the appointment of Gavrielov makes senseand for good reason.

"Moshe has an excellent track record in building semiconductor and software businesses, applying an outstanding blend of strategic, analytic, business and leadership skills," said Roelandts, who remains as chairman of the board, in a statement.

"Equally important is his commitment to a culture of innovation that honors the contributions of each and every employee, in keeping with the core values upon which Xilinx has been built over the past 24 years. Moshe's selection was approved unanimously by our board of directors, and we're fully confident that he is the right person to lead Xilinx through its next stage of growth," the former CEO added.

The new CEO, however, faces several challenges, including a cloudy IC climate in 2008. There is also concern about the overall growth of the FPGA market this year.

In this interview with EE Times Asia, the newest executive on the block discusses his plans for his first year in office, reflects on where the FPGA industry is heading, and shares the best advise his predecessor gave him.

What will be your first priority in your first year in office?
Good question. I have the wonderful fortune to have inherited a business that is doing really well, a very solid company. The challenge is to figure out how to achieve accelerated growth. That is our target. That is what I want to do. The goal is to take the very, very solid base that Xilinx has in its current business and the technology we have, and to move it forward more effectively to address more and more applications so that we can cater to a larger market and grow our business more.

Can you elaborate on your target percentage growth and application market?
My predecessor, Wim, grew the company from a half a billion to a $2 billion company. What I would like, and I believe we are well positioned to achieve, is to strive for the same growth over the next 10 years or so. And I think what we will see is that more and more of the designs implemented in ASIC, and then some of the designs implemented today in ASSPs, will be more cost-effectively implemented as FPGA. So, what we need to do is to continue to move our technology forward as quickly as possible, to enhance our IP portfolio, and to make sure of the ease of use and accessibility of our tools so that our customers can enable these new products effectively.

So this is how you see the FPGA industry evolving?
Yes, most definitely. I'll share an anecdote with you. I have friends in the VC [venture capital] world and whenever they look at a funding company that is developing an ASSP, they talk about a $70 million investment. And when you look at the number of applications that justify, in terms of the target market, that level of investment, you are looking at a billion-dollar market and there are not that many billion-dollar markets.

Therefore, what is happening is that a larger portion of the application space is best addressed by both speed of design and economics, and, in terms of the FPGA solution, that sort of falls into the center of our sweet spot. That will help our growth. That is the wind in our sails. We obviously need to move our technology, the IP portfolio and the tools forward to facilitate that.

When you say 'move the technology' that means 45nm?
You know there are certain benefits moving to advanced process nodes. At this point, we are the leader in the 65nm pace; we basically have a wonderful, enviable position there. Most of the designs, the vast majority of designs are being done with Xilinx solutions in 65nm node and in the proper time, we will bring out the next generation. However, it is not only in the silicon but also in the whole host of things. It is the IP library. It is how the software interacts.

How about your plans in Asia? Any new directives?
We are anticipating movement. With a larger and larger percentage of designs being done in Asia, the region is becoming a larger geography. We are very driven about customer requirements and where the opportunities are, and clearly Asia is a fast-growing part of the world.

Most of the forecasts for 2008 anticipate a dismal year. Any take on that? How will Xilinx battle the doldrums?
I have been in the semiconductor business for a long time and you know it is typical, there are ups and downs. Typically, the downturn tends to be short with the exception of the last one, which lasted three years. Even if there is a downturn, if you are in the fast-growing segment, the implications are usually much less severe.

You know, I just joined, and I am looking at the long term. I am looking at expanding our market. You know, during the next 10-12 years, there will be ups and downs, and I think we are in the best position to weather that.

What's your take on the Xilinx-Altera competition?
A couple of things about that topic. Altera is an excellent company. It benefits us to have two financially stable, solid companies in our business. John Daane [president, CEO and chairman of Altera] and I have been together in the past and we have a great relationship.

From my perspective, what we want to do is to keep on pushing Xilinx into new domains. We have an excellent platform, and I am not fixated on that competition. I think it is just growing the entire market and getting to grow the entire customer base and I'm sure if we do that extremely well, the rest will follow.

What's the best advise you received from Wim?
The good news is Wim is staying on as our chairman and is going to make himself available to counsel, and will be very involved, and watch the company in close quarters here. The best advice Wim gave me was to make sure that we build upon the very solid foundation that we have, use that as leverage for moving the company forward and then focus on achieving growth. That is excellent advice, which I have taken to heart.

- EE Times-Asia

-Mark LaPedus contributed to this article.

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