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Xilinx and AMD: an Inevitable Match? 108

itwbennett writes: Steve Casselman at Seeking Alpha was among the first to suggest that Xilinx should buy AMD because, among other reasons, it 'would let Xilinx get in on the x86 + FPGA fabric tsunami.' The trouble with this, however, is that 'AMD's server position is minuscule.... While x86 has 73% of the server market, Intel owns virtually all of it,' writes Andy Patrizio. At the same time, 'once Intel is in possession of the Altera product line, it will be able to cheaply produce the chip and drop the price, drastically undercutting Xilinx,' says Patrizio. And, he adds, buying AMD wouldn't give Xilinx the same sort of advantage 'since AMD is fabless.'
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Xilinx and AMD: an Inevitable Match?

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  • They could simply get an ARM license and design an ARM server CPU with their FPGA in the same chip.

    The manufacturing could be done in Samsung or Globalfoundries since they aren't competitors and are probably going to have the next best manufacturing process next to Intel.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Xilinx has produces with arm cores in them, see Zynq.

      • Great they just need to make one with a GOOD ARM processor then. Like the A15 or better.

        • Great they just need to make one with a GOOD ARM processor then. Like the A15 or better.

          What standard consumer product will that go into? Likely nothing. Meanwhile, now that Intel has bought Altera, they are likely to integrate some FPGA fabric into billions of consumer CPUs, as a standard device available to any app. Xinlinx will be pushed aside, with just a few niche markets, and even those may fade away as Altera takes advantage of Intel's fabs to make FPGAs that are faster/smaller/cooler.

          • What standard consumer product will that go into? Likely nothing.

            Of course not. It would be to the server market like Intel who was pairing FPGAs with Xeons.

      • by jcdr ( 178250 )

        Yes, but while there try to give usable Linux driver, there completely failed to support a recent leading standard distribution like Debian with a native compiler build system and all the fun and efficient tools. There are stick to an outdated Timesys distribution with an unbelievable obsolete build architecture. There still use static dev over udev, proprietary kernel driver build instead dkms, and no packaging.

        There urgently need to evolve from a 'hardware staff that try to code application' point of view

    • by Anonymous Coward

      AMD already tried the ARM server back in 2012 by buying seamicro. Nothing much came out of it and the division closed down this past April.

  • There is no evidence whatsoever that Xilinx will buy AMD. It's just some random idiot's speculation.
    Before this it was Samsung will buy AMD, the Chinese will buy AMD, Intel will buy AMD, etc.

    • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2015 @03:48PM (#49885723)

      Maybe systemd could buy AMD?

    • There is no evidence whatsoever that Xilinx will buy AMD. It's just some random idiot's speculation. Before this it was Samsung will buy AMD, the Chinese will buy AMD, Intel will buy AMD, etc.

      I don't know the situation, but i had read in some /. comment few month ago something interesting: Intel needs AMD (or some other competitor) to exist independently because otherwise Intel will become a legaly defined monopoly, with all the problems that creates to a company.

      • It was once the case.
        Now with the ubiquity of ARM, it might not be true anymore.
        • I may say something very stupid here but i think ARM is a British company that just licence to manufacturers, so it may not count as a competitor to Intel for the anti-monopoly legislation.
          • ARM itself might not count, but Samsung, Apple, and all the other folks manufacturing ARM-licensed chips probably.

      • That is a commonly held opinion, but it's not true. There's nothing illegal about being a monopoly. It's only illegal if you abuse your monopoly position

        • I did not wrote that it is illegal to be a monopoly (it would be illogical), but "problematic" (of course i bet it's better than having to compete!) - i understand that both in USA and in Europe (i am from Greece) "you have all the eyes looking at you" (i.e., frequent checks about you business practices, e.g., "cost proofs" forms) by law.
          • but they have that anyway. They are already a x86 server monopoly

            • With the way AMD has been stagnating, Intel already has a real monopoly. How many Microsoft Surfaces, or Winbooks, or Asus Transformers, or HPs or Dells have you seen w/ AMD CPUs in them lately?
          • You mention that you're from Greece in almost every comment you make, even though it's in your sig already. Knock it off.
            • I will keep mentioning that i am from Greece (especially when i discuss something that is about USA and my Greek nationality effects my information and/or understanding about the issue), but i respect that you critisizing me directly and using with you Slashdot account!
      • yeah it's bogus, i mean if there were any merit to that line of thought, you would have seen something absurd like MS bailing out Apple when they were in dire straights.

        • yeah it's bogus, i mean if there were any merit to that line of thought, you would have seen something absurd like MS bailing out Apple when they were in dire straights.

          Or Intel doing the same with AMD by "buying" a minority share - i thing you are right!

    • translation: some choad wants to pump some stock he owns

  • If AMD wanted to add an FPGA into their design, I am sure that Xilinx would sell them all the parts they wanted. No need to buy the company.
    • TFA is suggesting Xilinx should buy AMD, not the other way around.

    • While I have no idea of who Xilinx is or why I'd care ... TFA is suggesting Xilinx purchase AMD.

      Come on, it's in the first freakin' sentence. At least try.

    • Why would AMD buy Xilinx, the company?

      They wouldn't and it wasn't what was being suggested.

  • by Hodr ( 219920 )

    I'm sure someone will correct me if I am wrong, but I thought AMD's license for the x86 instruction set becomes invalidated if they get bought out.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      While you technically may be correct, Intel is a company with a history and reputation of abusing it's monopoly position to put competition out of Business to the detriment of consumers and the market as a whole.

      Guess what happens as soon as Intel threatens to revoke their license? I'm sure AMD would be allowed to pursue their X86 endeavors while the anti-trust case began it's processing.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      AMD certainly got guarantees from Intel when they adopted the 64bits extension.

      AMD looses the x86 licence ?

      Ok, then Intel looses the right to build AMD64 compatible CPUs...

  • by StandardCell ( 589682 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2015 @03:55PM (#49885793)
    The Intel-Altera deal, while beneficial for Altera shareholders, is not any kind of huge win for Intel. Intel was already Altera's fab partner, and there's very little incremental revenue compared to the cost. $2B/year for a $17B acquisition, even at a modest discount rate, is a questionable ROI.

    The reason is that this deal is questionable is that system design considerations vary considerably, and a fat CPU like an Intel Xeon is not always the best match for a networking application with an FPGA that close. Most of these server-side applications are, in any event, I/O bound in a server environment. That means fast backplane technologies for interfacing the various physical layer devices for networking and storage. Integration of programmable logic rather than putting it on a daughter card with a dedicated interface defeats the purpose of the flexibility that the FPGA provides in this environment, and that's to be able to bridge new and emerging standards while standard products eventually come in and take up the slack. Too little programmable logic and you have to replace the entire part. Too much, and you're killing your margins even now that gates are supposedly "free". Why would a system architect bother taking the risk on that without substantial advantages over the lifetime of their rack-mount beast? And this is essentially true whether or not the die is integrated or put in an multi-chip module or 3D die stack. Even if we consider other applications such as artificial intelligence and image processing, there are already alternatives out there including dedicated processors and GPUs that are doing much of this today, and they're off-the-shelf parts without dependency on the host CPU which - again - would be an I/O bound operation that you wouldn't necessarily want to involve the CPU in directly.

    Bringing this to Xilinx, AMD - as the article suggests - has even less presence in server. More importantly, AMD is always 1-2 generations behind in process technology versus Intel, which translates to even greater sensitivity to how much FPGA one devotes to the die. There is no Xilinx fab relationship with AMD since it's effectively fabless. Xilinx and Altera also play in other spaces where x86 is either not relevant or insufficiently so to justify integration (e.g. automotive, broadcast). All of the above points for Intel-Altera apply even more for AMD-Xilinx.

    Even in 2015, we're still dealing with external GPUs and Ethernet PHYs on small motherboards. Unless an application reaches true ubiquity and the cost-benefit is clear, integration for integration's sake is a losing cause. If Xilinx and AMD merge, it may very well hurt both companies. Stay tuned.
    • by CatGrep ( 707480 )
      Good analysis. I honestly am a bit baffled by Intel's purchase of Altera (especially for the price they paid). I don't think this means there will suddenly be a scramble to buy up FPGA companies (Altera and Xilinx control something like 90% of that market). It's not clear that having an FPGA on your SOC will be a clear win in the datacenter - FPGA programming is hard partly because it's hardware development which is in many ways very different from software development, and partly because the tools suck. T
    • Besides that, the data center was only a small part of the Altera business. If we believe that that was the only reason Intel bought them, what are they going to do with all the other stuff?

  • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2015 @04:09PM (#49885899) Homepage Journal

    And when it fails, we can blame Intel for going out of business.

    The point is, Intel plays by different rules and their Altera purchase represents a smaller percentage of their total worth. But the most important reason you shouldn't copy Intel is if there is an x86+FPGA market, you will never be able to beat Intel at it. If Intel wants your niche, they will take it from you. If Intel has already moved there before you even started, now you don't even have the ability to establish a new market, losing the only minute advantage there is.

    I recommend trying to come up with a new idea that Intel isn't actively pursuing. Get some customers and lots of patents, then when Intel wants to take it from you, they at least have to do some costly patent settlements. []

    • I agree wholeheartedly with the Parent, Xilinx should not copy Intel's strategy, but rather, come up with a new one...

      But sometimes managers are not creative enough. If the folks at Xilinx want to copy Intel's strategy on the cheap, they can try to buy Via/Centaur from Formosa Plastics Group.

      They make the Via Nano and related chipsets, the group is small (so less culture clashes, things will be done the Xilinx way). Have you read of the culture clashed between the red Team (ATi) and the Green Team (AMD) Whe

  • Xilinx and AMD aren't a good match. Xilinx has not been targetting the server market. They target custom embedded systems. (See DARPA challenge robots). Now that Altera is focusing on the server market and not on embedded, Xilinx can probably take over that entire space. It seems pretty clear that Altera(Intel) will dominate the server market, Xilinx will dominate the embedded market, Actel will dominate the space/irrational government contractor market, and Microsemi(Lattice) will remain largely irrelevant
  • Ok, so Cyrix was bought by National Semiconductor, which in turn sold Cyrix to VIA. I wonder how much of Cyrix ended up going into VIA's line of C7/Nano processors. . . Did anyone on here actually own a Cyrix machine?
  • Meh. Only five years ago AMD had very competitive products in the server range. Opterons were efficient and cheap.

    I remember Windows Azure launching in Europe with mostly Opterons inside and Steve Jobs buying that capacity to launch iCloud.

    The servers at my workplace used to run on Opterons, too. Then our provider changed to Intel (you could still get AMD, but you needed to pay extra) and eventual server upgrades lead to total disapperance of AMD from my previous company .

    I am pretty sure AMD was not a sing

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