Xilinx becomes master of their own domain; App Store to follow
Throughout 2011 Xilinx has been furiously announcing new targeted design platforms, tools, and high-density stacked chips. They’ve also not squelched rumors that they’ll get into the SOC/ASSP business if the volume is right. I pulled aside their chief marketing guru Brent Przybus at a Xilinx press event where he casually provided the following information. Little did I know at the time that he was mapping out Xilinx’s strategic plans: more IP via an App Store and FPGA-like devices propagating into higher-volume consumer markets. Edited excerpts follow.
– Chris A. Ciufo, Editor
What’s new at Xilinx these days?
PRZYBUS: There’s a difference in Xilinx’s philosophy. Xilinx used to do technology for the sake of technology. But the reality is that customers are looking to do some pretty amazing things with an FPGA, and they’re not going to tolerate technology simply replacing technology. They need solutions to problems, and that’s really where the fundamental difference in our approach now comes in: If there’s a problem, let’s figure out how to build a complete solution for that customer so that he can solve that problem. By doing this, we can get FPGAs adopted in ways we wouldn’t have been able to before.
So Xilinx is trying to expand out of its “comfort zone” markets, if you will?
PRZYBUS: Yes. A lot of our business partners are deeply immersed in a circle of markets that probably don’t know Xilinx very well. A great example of this is the automotive industry and companies that work closely with major auto manufacturers. While quite a few of these companies know Xilinx when it comes to solutions, they have a better relationship with the vendors they have worked with for years. We now work with these vendors, showing them how to use FPGAs to build market-specific solutions known as targeted platforms.
How much more does Xilinx intend to get involved with customers than before?
PRZYBUS: It comes down to empowerment. We start by providing base platforms that include functionality that is common to most all applications. We show by example how best to take advantage of the many features in an FPGA. Avnet and other vendors take these base platforms and extend the functionality to include domain capability such as DSP. Finally, market-specific vendors take these base and domain platforms and extend them to build market-specific platforms: solutions to a given market problem. We provide the building blocks and step back, let the work happen, and the results show up.
The benefits are twofold. First, our core business: next-generation aerospace and defense, medical imaging, communications, and test and measurement – companies that know a lot about FPGAs learn how to take best advantage of new features and technology needed to build their systems. For them, the base or domain-level platforms provide what they need.
Second, for our new business targeting specific markets – automotive, consumer – we provide platforms to solve market problems using FPGAs in a way they wouldn’t have thought of before. That’s where the growth will also come from.
You’ll have FPGA technology that customers can commoditize and drop into their end design?
PRZYBUS: Yeah, the platform approach enables a model that will be something like iTunes, where you have developers creating market- specific applications, linked to customers who can find these applications and drop them into their FPGA. It could be a commodity thing, yes.
An App Store for FGPAs?
PRZYBUS: I think the analogy loosely works. We certainly have the enablers. The work we’ve been doing with ARM’s AXI4 common interconnect, IEEE standards to support encryption, and IP-XACT enable what we call plug-and-play FPGA design, a key component of what you’re talking about: the platform App Store of sorts. I don’t believe customers will ever implement an entire design using content from the App Store; they will be able to replace possibly 50 percent of a design using these apps, though. In the end they have access to [something] they can easily use.
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