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Intel shifts strategy, sells 22nm fab capacity
Written by Daniel   
Tuesday, 02 November 2010 17:55

From ArsTechnica

Whenever Intel attacks a new market, the chipmaker always starts small, sets expectations modestly, and feels its way along slowly. That's why everyone is taking today's very small, modest announcement that Intel will, for the first time, act as a foundry by selling a tiny sliver of fab capacity to another chipmaker, as a Big Deal. And it is a big deal—but maybe not in the way everyone thinks. First, let's take a look at the deal.

In a blog post that went up earlier today, Intel's Bill Kircos flagged an announcement by Achronix that the latter company would be making its field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) on Intel's upcoming 22nm process. Kircos was very careful to emphasize the small size of this deal:

"With Achronix," Kircos writes, "we are selectively offering access to our 22nm fabs. For perspective, this deal would only make up a tiny amount of our overall capacity, significantly less than one percent, and is not currently viewed as financially material to Intel’s earnings."

As for Achronix, the company makes FPGAs, a type of chip that can be rewired in software. FPGAs are typically made on very old, very slow process nodes, and are a relatively expensive way to do things. They're used in any niche where you either need the ability to rewire the chip once it's in service, or where your initial shipping volumes will be too small to support a dedicated fab effort.

Achronix's hook is that they make super-fast FPGAs on a leading-edge process, which is where Intel comes in. The company's current Speedster1 products run at a blazing 1.5GHz, and when Speedster22i comes out on Intel's 22nm process it will retain the 1.5GHz top-end clockspeed, but use 50 percent less power at a much cheaper price point.

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