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Big news on the semi-conductor front

There’s been so much change in the semiconductor world these days, it’s hard to keep up with it all. Last week, it was the Avago-Broadcom deal. This week, with the agreement that Intel will acquire Altera, the wheelings and dealings are coming a bit closer to home.

Altera has been a partner of ours for the past two years. Our MitySOM-5CSX features the Altera Cyclone V SOC, which combines FPGA logic and a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor subsystem.

Obviously, with this acquisition, we’re talking about a far different order of magnitude than our partnership with Altera, but Intel is interested in Altera for the same reasons that we are. One of them is FPGA.

“Intel is known for general-purpose microprocessor chips that can be programmed to perform a near-infinite variety of computing tasks. Meanwhile, some kinds of operations-such as converting a video from one format into another or encrypting data so unauthorized people can’t read it-can be executed more quickly using circuits custom-tailored for the task.

“But the cost of making chips from scratch has risen steadily over the years, and fewer companies now do so. Altera, along with rival Xilinx Inc., popularized a middle path with chips called field-programmable gate arrays, or FPGAs, that are configured by customers to handle certain kinds of jobs after the chips leave the factory.

“Altera’s programmable chip technology is widely viewed as a way for Intel to protect its stronghold in selling chips for servers, a market that generated more than half of Intel’s operating profit in the March-ended quarter. Companies have been using FPGAs alongside Intel’s Xeon chips to help speed up their servers, and some analysts believe that Intel needs to have an internal source of the technology to respond to the trend.” (Source: Wall Street Journal)

Another reason is ARM, which has been making inroads into the data center. The good news for Critical Link is that Intel will continue to support Altera’s ARM technology products.

I think that this acquisition will be all for the good. The possibilities for other devices that will be developed as a result of Intel’s acquiring Altera should be very, very interesting. In the embedded space we’re particularly interested in seeing what innovation the Altera acquisition will bring to the Intel Atom and Quark product lines.




(If you’re interested, you can find the press release here.)