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Where Is The eFPGA Market And Ecosystem Headed?

An overview of this decade’s hot new technology and how it is being deployed.

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In this article we’ll discuss the availability of eFPGA, the applications for eFPGA and the current and future market size for eFPGA.

eFPGA vendors & offerings
Embedded FPGA is a new development this decade. There are now multiple vendors offering eFPGA on a wide range of process nodes with multiple customers.

eFPGA Vendors
Menta has had eFPGA available for the longest: their offering is primarily soft logic.

Flex Logix does only Hard IP, using its proprietary interconnect technology to deliver density and speed similar to Xilinx in the same process node but using standard cells for rapid delivery and low cost.

Achronix, efinix and QuickLogic are all IC/FPGA vendors who license eFPGA developed for their chip products. Their eFPGA is full-custom designed meaning it is difficult to port to a new process or process variation and to scale in size/features.

eFPGA Availability by Process Node
eFPGA is available on many process nodes, including the following

  • Sandia 180nm
  • TSMC 40LP/ULP
  • TSMC 28HPC/HPC+/22
  • GF 22FDX
  • TSMC 16FF+/FFC/FFC+, 12FFC/FFC+
  • GF 14LPP/12LP
  • TSMC N7

eFPGA Size and Features
Offerings vary by vendor but it is possible to get eFPGA that is as small as 100 LUTs and as large as 500K LUTs or more.

SRAM of varying sizes can be integrated within the array, between rows, as in traditional FPGAs.

DSP options are available from most vendors as well.

eFPGA applications
Some customers use eFPGA to integrate existing FPGA into ASICs to lower cost, lower power and increase performance.

But most customers are using eFPGA in their SoCs without having previously used FPGA.

Here are some of the larger applications using or evaluating eFPGA:

Aerospace
This market has been an early adopter of eFPGA.

FPGA is widely used in Aerospace systems: DARPA says that 1/3 of US Government IC purchases are FPGA.

The advantage of eFPGA are multiple: lower power, fewer chips, lower weight (all of which matter in things that have to fly) and US sourcing.

Announced customers include Sandia National Labs (in production on 180nm eFPGA for multiple ASICs), DARPA and Boeing.

Telecommunications
FPGAs are widely used in cellular base stations to handle the wide range of frequencies and protocols that must be supported across 100+ countries. Integrating the FPGAs into ASICs lowers power dramatically due to the high power of SERDES which is critical in these applications which have strict power limitations per rack.

Other telecom applications are integrating eFPGA for reasons such as reconfigurable encryption.

Announced customers include Morning Core (part of Datang Telecom) and Beijing Chongxin.

IoT, Computing, Storage and Mobile
Nations Technologies has licensed eFPGA, saying that it provides a degree of “future proofing” by making it possible for the SoC to support new functions as customer requirements evolve.

Dialog Semiconductor has licensed eFPGA for future Dialog products to provide configurability for target markets such as IoT, computing, storage and mobile.

Data Center
Microsoft has widely deployed FPGA in the Azure with one FPGA for every two Xeons. Microsoft has done this because certain workloads, for example AI Inference, run more efficiently on an FPGA than a processor.

At some point it is likely Data Centers will integrate eFPGA into ASICs to more efficiently utilize the performance advantages of eFPGA.

Microcontroller
Xilinx combines processors with FPGA.

Microcontroller companies at some point will integrate eFPGA into their offerings to 1) provide flexibility for implementation of things like Serial IO and/or encryption/decryption where there are dozens of protocols and/or 2) to provide acceleration of key workloads that run more efficiently on FPGA than on a processor.

AI
Some eFPGA vendors, like Achronix, are implementing optimized MACs for AI. Other are using eFPGA to develop optimized inference accelerators, like Flex Logix’ InferX X1.

Harvard University last year showed a 16nm AI chip that demonstrated eFPGA was more energy efficient for inference than other architectures.

eFPGA market size
Arm has been licensing processors since the 1990’s and in 2019 did $550M of new processor licenses (their royalty revenue is much higher) – this is after 3 decades of market development.

eFPGA is newer with availability first happening earlier this decade. eFPGA license revenue, across all vendors, in 2019 is over $10 million, and probably significantly over.

Allied Market Research projects eFPGA license revenue in 2024 to grow to $300 million: this is a compound annual growth rate >50%/year for 5 years.

eFPGA is on the edge of rapid growth
The wide availability of eFPGA from a multiplicity of vendors and the growing adoption of eFPGA will result in exponential growth in the usage of eFPGA over the next 5 years.



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