Insight Bite: Intel Spur System-on-a-Chip Development With Netspeed Takeover

In a move designed to help develop its tools for chip designs, semiconductor giant Intel has acquired NetSpeed Systems – a California-based provider of system-on-chip (SoC) design tools and interconnect fabric intellectual property (IP).

Although the size of the deal has not been disclosed, in a funding round prior to acquisition the venture-backed startup NetSpeed raised $13.2 million from investors at a $60 million valuation.

The team from NetSpeed will now bring their expertise to Intel’s Silicon Engineering Group (SEG), led by seasoned chip architect Jim Keller. The arrangement will make Netspeed an internal asset, but honour the company’s existing customer contracts, and potentially allow them to retain some autonomy under the leadership of CEO – and former intel employee – Sundari Mitra.

“Intel is designing more products with more specialised features than ever before, which is incredibly exciting for Intel architects and for our customers,” said Jim Keller, senior vice president of the Silicon Engineering Group at Intel. “The challenge is synthesising a broader set of IP blocks for optimal performance while reining in design time and cost. NetSpeed’s proven network-on-chip technology addresses this challenge, and we’re excited to now have their IP and expertise in-house.”

Network-on-a-chip, and system-on-a-chip,  are both integrated circuit systems that combine processors with essential peripheral components like memory in a single unit.

These chips provide the central nervous system of smart devices used across a range of different industries, and can be found in autonomous vehicles, smartphones, blood pressure tools, cloud computing hardware, IoT devices, and cutting-edge storage technology. They are also central to new innovations like Microsoft’s Always-connected PC, which uses SoC chips instead of a CPU and motherboard combination.

This acquisition, which comes two months after Intel’s purchase of programmable chip maker eASIC Corp., will help the company with internal SoC development initiatives and potentially allow them to tap into broader markets – a move that could place them in direct competition with larger rivals like Nvidia and Qualcomm.

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