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Intel Launches Altera: Igniting the AI Era with FPGAs

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Intel Launches Altera: Igniting the AI Era with FPGAs

On March 1st, Intel officially announced the establishment of a new semiconductor entity, Altera, specialized in Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs). This disclosure took place during the FPGA Vision online event, where Altera's CEO, Sandra Rivera, and Chief Operating Officer, Shannon Poulin, unveiled the company's forthcoming strategic initiatives and product roadmap. Altera is committed to providing comprehensive FPGA solutions, accessible AI, and user-friendly software tools, with a concurrent focus on fortifying its supply chain resilience to sustain a leading position within the dynamic FPGA market.

CEO Sandra Rivera underscored the promising growth opportunities and substantial profit potential that Artificial Intelligence (AI) presents for Intel's newly established autonomous programmable chip division. Having commenced independent operations earlier this year, the division was formally christened "Altera, an Intel Company," signifying Intel's intention to issue stocks for Altera in the coming two to three years.

Intel's acquisition of Altera in 2015, involving a record-breaking $16.7 billion investment, marked the company's most significant merger to date. Sandra Rivera emphasized the applicability of Altera's programmable chip designs, bridging the gap between custom processors developed by major cloud computing entities like Amazon and general AI chips produced by industry leaders such as NVIDIA.

Rivera anticipates the programmable chip market to burgeon to approximately $8 billion to $10 billion by 2023, citing the adaptability of these chips to the evolving hardware requirements of AI applications. She emphasized the pivotal role of programmable chips in remaining at the forefront of technological innovation and facilitating seamless transitions in the AI landscape.

Altera's expanded product portfolio will now include FPGAs with integrated AI capabilities, a strategic move aimed at helping clients overcome intricate technological challenges and distinguish themselves in a competitive landscape. Altera's FPGAs find versatile applications across domains such as cloud computing, data centers, industrial automation, communication infrastructure, and automotive systems.

Altera recently introduced the Agilex 9 FPGA, boasting industry-leading data conversion performance, particularly beneficial for radar and military aerospace systems requiring high-bandwidth mixed-signal processing. The Agilex 7 series caters to data center and network applications, providing twice the performance per watt compared to industry counterparts. Meanwhile, the Agilex 5 stands out as the industry's inaugural FPGA featuring built-in AI computing capabilities, making it ideal for intelligent edge devices.

In addition to hardware advancements, Altera has bolstered its FPGA design software Quartus Prime and augmented its suite of AI-acceleration-related IP and tools. These enhancements empower clients to streamline FPGA development and facilitate the deployment of AI models.

The current lineup of Intel's Agilex series programmable chips is manufactured by Intel Foundry, the company's contract manufacturing division. While Sandra Rivera refrained from confirming Intel Foundry's involvement in the production of the upcoming Agilex 3 chips, she expressed a desire for equitable treatment, akin to that of valued customers, potentially including preferential pricing. An Intel spokesperson affirmed that contract manufacturing clients may enjoy discounted rates based on projected sales volumes, with Intel's business division representing the predominant customer of Intel Foundry.


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