Intel swallows Brit chip slinger Omnitek in bid to boost FPGA business

Sure, FPGAs don't make much cash, but they might soon?


Intel is buying Omnitek, a small British FPGA design house primarily serving the media and broadcast industries.

The financial details of the arrangement have not been disclosed.

In the past 20 years, Omnitek has developed more than 220 FPGA cores, along with software used for things like video transcoding – normally a very compute-intensive task.

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Omnitek's products are used in devices like video conferencing equipment, projectors, displays and medical imaging systems, and include a specialised deep learning processing unit (DPU) for machine learning applications. The company also offers consultancy services for organisations taking their first steps with FPGAs.

"From data centres to devices, compute-intensive applications like 8K video and artificial intelligence require a multitude of innovative compute engines," said Roger Fawcett, CEO of Omnitek. "FPGA devices play an increasingly critical role, often complementing other processing architectures, and Intel is at the centre of this revolution."

Chipzilla's programmable solutions group (PSG), which deals with FPGAs, is the company's smallest and youngest division, built following the purchase of FPGA-maker Altera for $16.7bn in 2015 – Intel's biggest ever acquisition.

PSG made $2.1bn in revenue in 2018, a fraction of the company's $70.8bn total for the year. Naturally, Intel would like to sell more FPGAs – the company reckons the total addressable market (TAM) for this type of silicon comes to approximately $8bn.

If you haven't heard about TAMs, they are Intel's latest obsession, started in 2018. That ever-increasing digit is a bright spot Chipzilla has pointed to as it faced down 10nm woes as well as the increasing threat from AMD and Xilinx – the company that invented FPGAs.

No recent Intel presentation is complete without mentioning TAMs, and that includes the event that marked the launch of the latest generation of Xeon silicon earlier this month.

Here's the beauty of TAMs: they are in no way related to actual performance of the business. To increase your TAM, just add new product categories. Intel claims that its overall TAM has increased to more than $300bn, up from $260bn a year ago.

Following the acquisition, Omnitek will be integrated into the PSG, led by Dan McNamara, a former Altera executive.

"Omnitek's technology is a great complement to our FPGA business," McNamara said. "Together, we will deliver leading FPGA solutions for video, vision and AI inferencing applications on Intel FPGAs and speed time-to-market for our existing customers while winning new ones." ®

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