Intel acquires graphics tech biz founded by ex-AMD, Qualcomm engineers
Demoscene-steeped Siru is on not its Second but, what, Third or Fourth Reality, now?
Intel has acquired a graphics technology firm founded by ex-Qualcomm mobile GPU engineers whose previous company, Bitboys, was once thought of as a front-runner of desktop graphics.
Announced on Tuesday, Intel's latest acquisition is Siru Innovations, a Finnish firm focused on developing software and silicon building blocks, known as IP, for GPUs made by other companies. The Siru team will join Intel's fledgling Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics Group.
Balaji Kanigicherla, head of the Custom Compute Group within Intel's graphics business unit, said on LinkedIn that Siru's expertise in architecture, software, modeling and hardware implementation will aid Intel's accelerated computing efforts in various high-growth areas, including buzzy terms like blockchain and metaverse.
"Together, we will propel [the graphics business unit] and the Custom Compute Group's focus on driving custom silicon/platform solutions and emerging accelerated compute solutions, in the areas of blockchain, metaverse, high performance edge compute and hyperscale — representing a significant opportunity over the coming years," he wrote.
The Twitter account for Intel's graphics team had a slightly less buzzword-filled description of the areas it expects help from Siru: mobility-as-a-Service, advanced driver assistance systems, gaming, and hyperscale datacenters, which are run by large companies like Meta and Amazon.
The acquisition was made as Intel seeks to challenge Nvidia and AMD by becoming a major player in discrete graphics and accelerated computing. These efforts include Intel's new Arc GPUs for PCs, its upcoming Ponte Vecchio GPU for high-performance computing, and its upcoming Blockscale ASIC for cryptocurrency mining.
On Siru's website, the company said it has a "deep understanding of computer graphics," from high-level APIs like Microsoft's DirectX and OpenGL to the GPU architecture itself.
"We have designed, implemented, and verified major architectural innovations to our customer's GPUs which are in shipping products," the company's website said.
Interestingly, Siru's website said its team has a "low-power" mindset for developing graphics tech, thanks to its past experience developing mobile GPUs at Qualcomm and AMD.
The journey of the Bitboys
Siru itself isn't a well-known name in the graphics field, but its team is led by respected veterans in the field who got their start as demosceners creating software-generated art in the early 1990s before starting their own graphics company and getting acquired twice.
One of Siru's founders is Mika "Trug" Tuomi, who was a coder for a Finnish demogroup called Future Crew, which is famous for various real-time demos including 1993's Second Reality for PC, the source code for which can now be found here.
You can watch the original demo here or a clip with remastered sound below.
In the 1990s, Tuomi and his brother Kaj helped found Bitboys, which was once thought as a front-runner of desktop GPU technology before it failed to deliver a much-hyped chip called Glaze3D.
Bitboys then pivoted to graphics chips for mobile phones in the early 2000s before getting acquired in 2006 by GPU maker ATI for $44.5 million. ATI was acquired by AMD shortly after. The Bitboys team, as a result, became known as AMD Finland.
Then in 2009, AMD sold its mobile division, including the Bitboys team, to Qualcomm for $65 million. This resulted in the creation of Qualcomm Finland, and the mobile chip designer used the team's expertise to create its lineup of Adreno GPUs, the latest of which are now packed into Qualcomm's newest Snapdragon system-on-chips for phones and laptops.
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Despite the Bitboys' lasting legacy at Qualcomm, the founders and other team members did not stay at the company for too long and left the mobile chip designer to start Siru in 2011.
With Siru now joining Intel, it will mark a reunion of sorts for the Bitboys team and Raja Koduri, the leader of Intel's graphics business unit who was previously AMD's chief GPU architect. It also means the team will have another chance to compete against Nvidia and AMD after losing the desktop graphics race to them more than two decades ago.
"Since our founding in 2011, we've built an incredible platform that develops proprietary technology and has become a trusted partner for the graphics industry," said Mikko Alho, a Bitboys veteran who led and co-founded Siru, in a LinkedIn post. "Joining Intel is a testament to our team's deep expertise in customizing GPU IP throughout the full design lifecycle." ®