Intel (News - Alert) plans to extend its market reach, considering the value outside PC chips. Therefore, Intel will offer a version of its Atom microprocessor, the calculating engine inside low-end portables, netbooks, partnered with Altera’s (News - Alert) FPGA chip technology. The joint packaging of these network equipment building system (NEBS) products is directed towards embedded applications, which refers to office equipment, medical devices, industrial machines, almost anything that is not a PC.
Embedded applications often need special circuitry to handle actions not easily carried out by general-purpose microprocessors such as Intel’s Atom, and often require a field programmable gate array (FPGA). An FPGA usually can have instructions electronically loaded in by a customer after the chip leaves a factory. Altera’s knowledge in this product line makes them a worthy partner. The package offered by both companies, highlighting Intel’s Atom and Altera’s FPGA chip technology, is a product code-named Stellarton.
Although Intel believes it is bringing diversity to its product line, Jonathan Luse, director of marketing in Intel’s embedded products operations, claims that there isn’t really a big performance advantage from placing the two chips together on one piece of plastic. The combination, however, does save space on a circuit board, and means that customers buy the product from one rather than two suppliers.
For Intel the combined packaging of Intel’s and Altera’s technologies is a successful step towards its frequently discussed intentions to create such business partnerships. In May 2009, for instance, the publicized intention to work with chip-making service Taiwan Semiconductor (News - Alert) Manufacturing Co., to make chips that combine an Atom processor with circuitry from other sources, fell through as the alliance was suspended.
Intel is making strides, however, successfully reaching out to other technology partners. In late October, for example, Intel announced a pact to make chips to order for Achronix Semiconductor, a startup that is designing its own FPGAs. With the right partner Intel is willing to share its most advanced manufacturing technology with another firm.
Intel was recently in the news, when Interface Masters Technologies, a provider of networking solutions, introduced a new family of 1 Gigabit Low Profile Quad Port server adapters based on Intel's latest Ethernet controller, 82580, with support for Cavium Nitrox 16xx series SSL/IPSEC hardware acceleration and network bypass.
Jaclyn Allard is a TMCnet copy editor. She most recently worked on the production team at Juran Institute, a quality consulting firm producing its own training and marketing materials. Previously, she interned at Curbstone Press, a nonprofit publishing press in Willimantic, CT, and fulfilled the role of Editor-in-Chief for the literature and arts journal published by the University of Connecticut. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Jaclyn Allard