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Intel to make Tabula's 22nm devices

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:22nm process? PLD? tri-gate?

Tabula Inc., a programmable logic company, has confirmed that its 22nm 2PLD devices will be manufactured by Intel Corp. using Intel's 3D tri-gate transistors. This will make Tabula the second company that has confirmed to make use of Intel's Custom Foundry division. Achronix Semiconductor Corp. was the first to announce that Intel would be making its 2nm FPGAs.

For years, Intel only dabbled in ASIC and foundry sector. However, the firm discontinued its ASIC business a long time ago and has never been considered a major foundry player. Since the Achronix deal was announced, some analysts saw that the chip giant was set to increase its presence it the foundry space dominated by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd (TSMC).

Last year, a Reuters' article reported Intel executives saying that given the opportunity, the company would happily manufacture higher volumes of chips for major companies such as, hypothetically, Apple Inc.

Like Achronix, Tabula is a relatively small programmable logic startup trying to compete in a market segment dominated by Xilinx Inc. and Altera Corp. Tabula's manufacturing volume at 22nm will be extremely low in comparison to Intel's own products. Because there is a premium placed on leading-edge process technology in high-end programmable logic, which both Tabula and Achronix offer, it is likely that the idea of working with Intel is especially attractive to them.

"We felt early on as we looked at what Intel was doing on this technology node that there would be some synergy between our product and Intel's technology," said Dennis Segers, Tabula's CEO.

Rumors of a Tabula-Intel foundry relationship have been circulating for nearly a year.

Tri-gate rouses IntelCARM rivalry
Intel's announcement of its low-power tri-gate transistor triggers anew its competition with ARM. ARM is on the planar road when it comes to the 22nm node while Intel will go tri-gate. Read the whole story here.

Intel announced in May last year that its tri-gate transistors, which the company had been developing for years, would form the basis of the company's 22nm process technology. The technology was originally supposed to be in volume production by late last year, but recent reports have indicated that Intel's 22nm processors, codenamed Ivy Bridge, won't be in volume production until June 2012.

Tabula, which operated in semi-stealth mode for years before March 2010, when the company made public the details of its Spacetime three-dimensional programmable logic architecture. The architecture, Tabula claimed, will enable a new class of devices and 3PLDs that offer the capability of an ASIC, ease the use of an FPGA as well as lower price points suitable for volume production.

According to Tabula, the Spacetime programmable fabric delivers a balanced architecture with shorter interconnects than traditional FPGAs and the ability to clock the entire fabriclogic, DSP, memory and interconnectat the same frequency. To do that, the Spacetime architecture uses time as a third dimension to reduce the number of components needed to implement a function and can deliver smaller, higher performance chips, the company said.

Tabula uses TSMC to build its 40nm ABAX products, which are currently in volume production and can be operated at clock speeds of 1.6GHz. Segers said the relationship with TSMC would continue on the 40nm products. "We continue to work with TSMC on that product and we have an ongoing relationship with TSMC," he added. "We have great respect for TSMC. They are the best in the world at what they do."

Segers declined to reveal when Tabula's next-generation 22nm devices would be in volume production. Details about the agreement with Intel were also not disclosed.

- Dylan McGrath
??EE Times

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