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AMD to Buy Xilinx?

Will this Borg-like assimilation mean the Xilinx moniker will soon pass from the popular consciousness to be replaced by the name AMD Programmable Devices?

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It seems like it’s buying season for big companies. Just a couple of weeks ago, for example, we heard that Nvidia is in the process of buying ARM for $40 billion. It’s a funny thing, but when this sort of thing happens, my knee-jerk reaction is “What a surprise,” which is closely followed by, “Well, I guess that makes sense when you think about it.” I remember when microprocessor maker Intel acquired FPGA vendor Altera for ~$17 billion in 2015. I recall being shocked at the time. If anyone had asked me, I would have said that Altera was too big to be acquired, but the combination of humongous processors and hairy FPGAs to create high-performance computing (HPC) solutions made a lot of sense once I’d thought about it. Of course, Intel and AMD have long been rivals. Even so, when I heard today that AMD may be acquiring Xilinx for $30+ billion, my first reaction was, “What!” On reflection, however, I’m thinking, “I can see this happening.” Intel has done a pretty good job of burying Altera’s name and branding it as “Intel Programmable Devices” (apart from on the Digi-Key online catalog which still regards the two companies as separate entities). They’ve certainly done a much better job than Microchip Technology, which acquired Microsemi and its FPGAs in 2018, but maybe that’s just a matter of time. All of which raises the question, will this forthcoming Borg-like assimilation (“resistance is futile”) mean the Xilinx moniker will soon pass from the popular consciousness to be replaced by the name “AMD Programmable Devices”? On the one hand, both Intel (Altera as was) and Xilinx (AMD as may be) boast programmable logic lines that span the spectrum from the reasonably small to the mind-bogglingly large in terms of capacity, functionality, and performance. On the other hand, I personally believe that the hearts and souls of these companies are now firmly rooted in extremely high-end devices. All of which leads one to wonder what the folks at companies like Achronix and Lattice Semiconductor make of this news. The guys and gals at Achronix also focus on high-end devices, although they tailor them to specific deployment scenarios. By comparison, for the past few years, the chaps and chapesses at Lattice Semiconductor have been on a mission to dominate the low-to-mid-range of FPGA Space (where no one can hear you scream). I may be mistaken, but I don’t think AMD wants Xilinx for its lower-end offerings. In turn, this may mean that the folks at Lattice are currently breaking out their party hats at the thought of AMD absorbing Xilinx. As always, we certainly do live in exciting times. Do you have any thoughts you’d care to share on any of this?

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Bob Jones

Neat summary, Max. Thanks for your insights. As you say, these things often make sense with hindsight. My agency worked with Actel, Microsemi, Altera and Intel so we’ve seen first hand how quickly the acquired brands disappear. I agree that this is likely to happen to Xilinx too. Do you think that the same thing will happen to Arm if it becomes part of Nvidia? It feels like a different scenario but it may just be my emotional attachment to the only British success story that ever been in the same league as the Silicon Valley giants?

Aubrey Kagan

Max

historically perhaps there is some rationale in Intel’s and AMD’s acquisitions. Intel used to make and second source Altera’s offering. AMD was in the programmable logic market for a while after they bought Monolithic Memories.

But I get really uneasy as some companies gobble up the manufacturers that I hold near and dear. Analog Devices acquired Linear Technologies and now Maxim. And my favourite micro manufacturer, Cyprss, now owned by Infineon. I get shivers when I think that there will be some rationalization and the chips that I have designed in will be no more.

that has happened to me more that once when TI swallowed companies like Burr-Brown. I am really worried about product from National Semi. Actually TI seems to be in a non-acquisition phase at the moment…

who’s next?

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