Mountain View, CA, February 23, 2015—Flex Logix Technologies, a pioneer in technology that lets chips change, today introduced EFLX, an innovative FPGA (field programmable gate array) core that allows chip makers and equipment manufacturers to update normally fixed functions in silicon at will. The company’s technology platform enables significant new customer benefits by dramatically reducing design and manufacturing risks, accelerating technology roadmaps and bringing greater flexibility to hardware.
Flex Logix is also proud to announce that co-founders Cheng C. Wang, Fang-Li Yuan and UCLA professor of electrical engineering Dejan Markovic have received the prestigious Lewis Award for Outstanding Paper at the International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC), one of the world’s premier chip design conferences, for a paper1 outlining concepts embodied in EFLX. Recent Lewis Award winners include IBM, Toshiba, Nvidia and Sandisk. Other groundbreaking research unveiled at ISSCC include some of the first papers on digital signal processors (Bell Labs, 1980), RISC processors (UC Berkeley, Stanford, 1984) and 1 GHz processors (Intel, 2000).
EFLX is a fully-functional FPGA that, instead of existing in systems as a standalone chip, is integrated into communications chips, microcontrollers and other devices. EFLX cores can be used to upgrade I/O protocols, change encryption algorithms to improve security, enable elements of software-defined radio or accelerate data center algorithms like search. EFLX can be leveraged by manufacturers or end-users to upgrade new products or individual systems already installed in the field.
EFLX FPGA cores can fit into chips selling for hundreds of dollars to less than one dollar.
“We give people a way to change their silicon without changing their silicon,” said Geoff Tate, Flex Logix CEO and co-founder. “FPGA technology has been employed for years in markets where performance requirements are stringent and real-world uses are unpredictable. With EFLX cores, we can bring what’s great about FPGAs to a broader spectrum of customers and users.”
Flex Logix will license EFLX and associated software technology to semiconductor manufacturers. Tate is a recognized leader in semiconductor IP licensing. Prior to Flex Logix, he served as CEO of Rambus for 15 years, leading the company from a four-person startup to a publicly-held company with a market capitalization of over $2 billion dollars. Before that, Tate was a senior vice president at AMD responsible for microprocessors. Lux Capital is the lead Series A investor in Flex Logix.
FPGAs and Flex Logix
Flex Logix’s goal is to empower chip designers and their customers to push the boundaries of performance and technology with far less risk. Over the past several years, chip design costs have been rising sharply, according to analyst reports. Developing new mask, or circuit pattern, to upgrade a single chip can cost $2 million to $5 million. Missing product cycles because of design or technology issues can mean millions in lost revenue. Similarly, end-users often have to replace equipment or endure sub-optimal performance because of unanticipated in-field conditions.
A growing $5 billion market, standalone FPGAs allow hardware to adapt to new demands and technologies, but they add substantial cost: a large percentage are employed in higher-end markets like aerospace, automotive and medical imaging. FPGAs consist of identical circuit blocks connected through an intricate network: increasing their performance typically means increasing costs and board space.
Flex Logix cores are based around a unique hierarchical network that reduces the length of communication links between logic blocks, a breakthrough achieved by co-founder Cheng Wang and explained in the award-winning ISSCC paper. This innovative network architecture reduces overall power consumption and improves performance. It also reduces the area required for interconnects by 50% or more and the number of metal layers, which in turn allows EFLX cores to be integrated into other devices. Standalone FPGAs cannot be easily retrofitted for integration.
Flex Logix has begun to offer its first core, a 2,500-LUT core design in TSMC’s mainstream 28 nanometer HPM process, to manufacturers through licensing contracts. An individual 2,500-LUT (look up table) core is expected to add less than 15 cents to the total manufacturing cost of a device. Designers will also integrate multiple EFLX cores: EFLX cores can be integrated into multiple circuit blocks in the same design or tiled together to create arrays of 7 x 7 or more EFLX cores for greater performance. Flex Logix will also develop smaller EFLX cores that will cost fractions of a cent as well as EFLX cores with more LUTs to serve a greater number of applications. The company is in discussions with a number of companies, especially in communications and networking.
“Flex Logix has the potential to dramatically reshape the semiconductor industry,” said Peter Hebert, co-founder and Managing Partner of Lux Capital. “Adaptable silicon is a really big idea – and we’re proud to be behind Geoff and his team as they bring their breakthrough to market. If we’re successful, billions of new integrated chips will be based on Flex Logix’s innovative EFLX technology.”
1. The paper—“A Multi-Granularity FPGA with Hierarchical Interconnects for Efficient and Flexible Mobile Computing”—was authored by Cheng C. Wang, Fang-Li Yuan, Tsung-Han Yu and Dejan Markovic.