CHIPMAKER Intel will fab field programmable gate array (FPGA) chips for Altera on its upcoming 14nm process node.
Intel's fab foundry experiment has been viewed by many as a sideshow, with the firm having said that it wouldn't make chips for other firms that compete in the same markets it does. However Intel has announced its first deal with an established chip designer, with Altera tapping Intel's upcoming 14nm process node for its FPGA chips.
Altera is one of the biggest names in the FPGA market and its products end up in high performance computing (HPC) clusters. Now Altera has said that it will be the only FPGA vendor with access to Intel's 14nm node, strongly suggesting that the two firms have signed an exclusive deal ensuring that other FPGA designers such as Xilinx will have to continue to either invest in chip manufacturing capacity or rely on foundris such as TSMC or Globalfoundries to keep up with Altera.
Intel COO Brian Krzanich said, "We look forward to collaborating with Altera on manufacturing leading-edge FPGAs, leveraging Intel's leadership in process technology. Next-generation products from Altera require the highest performance and most power-efficient technology available, and Intel is well positioned to provide the most advanced offerings."
While Altera's use of Intel's upcoming 14nm process node makes it an important new customer for the chipmaker, Intel's deal with Cisco is far more important, as FPGAs remain niche products while Cisco is pushing ahead with servers and is still the biggest player in the network infrastructure equipment market. Nevertheless, it is starting to look like Intel is taking its fab foundry business seriously as it tries to calm Wall Street's worries over the huge investment in manufacturing it will need to make to continue to remain competitive against the many ARM processor vendors. µ
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