Intel Buys NetSpeed for NoC, Fabric IP

Startup becomes part of Intel’s Silicon Engineering Group; Intel shifts direction.


Intel acquired NetSpeed Systems, taking in network-on-a-chip and interconnect fabric intellectual property for designing, developing, and testing system-on-a-chip devices.

The acquisition gives Intel a key missing ingredient in its plan to develop customized heterogeneous solutions for its customers. The company now has various memory pieces, interconnect bridges, programmable logic and ASICs, and has plans to develop complete solutions rather than just competing on the power/performance specs and price for individual processors. It was the chip-to-chip comparison that allowed Arm to win the mobile market, much to the surprise of Intel.

Intel’s plan is to leverage all of the technology it has developed or bought over the past decade, including Mobileye for automotive AI and its Embedded Multi-Die Interconnect Bridge (EMIB). But the piece that has been missing is a way to more easily combine all of that technology. NetSpeed’s on-chip interconnect provides that connectivity, setting the stage for a big push by Intel into new markets.

“When you come to a real deployed workload, when you have a smart city and something that analyzes a broader question, it does something that is very neural-network centric,” said Gadi Singer, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Artificial Intelligence Products Group. “But it does it in the context of a broader compute, and the solution has to play together as a whole.”

This is where NetSpeed fits neatly into overall Intel plan.

Sundari Mitra, a co-founder of NetSpeed in 2011 and the company’s CEO, is rejoining Intel as a vice president reporting to Jim Keller, senior vice president and general manager of the chipmaker’s Silicon Engineering Group. Mitra worked as an Intel chip designer earlier in her career.

NetSpeed’s entire team is joining the Silicon Engineering Group, bringing its expertise in SoC design tools and other tech specialties.

Financial terms of the transaction were not revealed. Intel Capital was an investor in NetSpeed, along with SK Hynix, Imagination Technologies, and others.

NetSpeed’s network-on-a-chip IP and the startup’s design tool is meant to automate front-end design and generate programmable, synthesizable high-performance and energy-efficient interconnect fabrics, which are becoming key to IC packaging challenges.

“Intel is designing more products with more specialized features than ever before, which is incredibly exciting for Intel architects and for our customers,” Keller said in a statement. “The challenge is synthesizing 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.”

Mitra added, “Intel has been a great customer of NetSpeed’s, and I’m thrilled to once again be joining the company. Intel is world class at designing and optimizing the performance of custom silicon at scale. As part of Intel’s Silicon Engineering Group, we’re excited to help invent new products that will be a foundation for computing’s future.”

Intel stated that it will honor NetSpeed’s existing contracts, while transitioning the team to an internal asset in the future.

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