CEO interview: Flex Logix' Geoff Tate on licensing FPGA

February 26, 2018 // By Peter Clarke
Geoff Tate, has a strong track record in the semiconductor industry. He was a senior vice president for microprocessors and logic at AMD from 1979 to 1990 and then moved to co-found memory interface IP licensor Rambus Inc. He led Rambus as CEO through to an IPO with a $2 billion market capitalization in 2005. eeNews Europe caught up with him to ask about his latest startup Flex Logix Technologies Inc. (Mountain View, Calif.), where he is also CEO and co-founder.

Flex Logix, founded in 2014, provides licensable field-programmable gate array (FPGA) fabric and has produced fabric cores for multiple manufacturing processes including TSMC's 40, 28 and 16nm processes. "We are part of the TSMC IP Alliance to help provide access but we have also conducted a port of our technology for Sandia National Laboratory to a 180nm CMOS platform for radiation hard applications," said Tate.

"We're happy to port to additional process nodes and styles but we don't do ports without a customer. We will port to what they want and bear that cost," Tate explained.

Clearly 10nm and 7nm are the next FinFET nodes on TSMC's roadmap. So how soon will Flex Logix be there?

Geoff Tate, CEO and co-founder of Flex Logix.

"The customers who are thinking about 7nm are in wireless, networking, data centers and so on and from what we can see very few people are doing 7nm design right now. They have plans but they’ve not yet started. Also 7nm keeps evolving. If you start to soon you could end up being on a version that's not much used. TSMC technology symposium in Santa Clara on May 1 is when we expect more information. And we expect it [the process] to arrive late 2018 early 2019."

Tate added: "And for us 7nm is the next node. We haven't had any customers asking for 10nm. We do need to anticipate the needs of the customers but in FinFET it takes us about eight months to do a port. If we start at with the customer we can be proven in silicon before they tape out."

With the digital logic developing rapidly at present we asked Tate whether Flex Logix sees an opportunity in diversifying its IP offering beyond FPGA fabric?

"Well we have moved from a first to a second generation fabric – from a 4-input look-up-table (LUT) to 6-input LUT (see FPGA fabric offered for TSMC 16nm FinFET). But that's not really a diversification. All our software improvements are now focused on the 6-input LUT. It's better for density and performance."

But what about additional structures to better support neural networks?

Next: Machine learning?