Intel opens fabs to Achronix

Intel has reached an agreement to produce chips for a small start-up company, marking the first such venture in the company's long history as a silicon fabricator.

The deal sees the chip giant making silicon for tiny start-up Achronix Semiconductor Corporation, which is specialising in high-performance field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) for 100G and 400G Ethernet networking, along with LTE mobile communications - and are designed to work alongside central processors from the likes of Intel, rather than the competition.

It's likely this particular aspect of the company's creations that has lead Intel to open its doors to its ultra-modern manufacturing facilities for the first time ever, offering Achronix the chance to churn out chips based on a 22nm process size - significantly smaller than is offered by specialist foundries such as TSMC.

This reduction in process size will give the company a significant lead over its rivals in the industry, meaning that Achronix chips will be likely faster, lower powered, and run cooler than those from established rivals such as Altera - at least, until the 22nm process becomes mainstream.

The production will start with the company's Speedster22i FPGA family, which Intel will produce in its high-end fabrication facilities - an honour normally reserved for the company's own chips.

John Holt, chief executive at Achronix, claims: "Intel has the best process technology in the world and we are privileged to have formed this strategic relationship, which enables simultaneous improvements in speed, power, density and cost," and looking at the specifications he might be on to something."

According to Achronix, the move to a 22nm process size - significantly ahead of anyone else in the FPGA market - means that the company's products will offer 300 per cent higher performance, a 50 per cent decrease in power draw, and come in at a 40 per cent discount compared to competing technologies.

So far neither Achronix nor Intel have said when the first Speedster22i chips will be rolling off the production lines.