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商业 - 科技

英特尔为何要花167亿美元收购Altera?

Stacey Higginbotham 2015年09月08日

英特尔前不久以167亿美元的价格收购Altera公司。一个重要原因在于,到2020年,英特尔相信将有三分之一的数据中心市场使用Altera专攻的可编程芯片。

    3个月前,英特尔宣布将以167亿美元的价格收购Altera公司。对于这家全球最大的芯片公司来说,这是一笔意义重要的投资,此举似乎旨在整合半导体行业。不过最近,对于英特尔斥巨资收购Altera的动机,我们掌握了更多细节。

    理由大体可归结为英特尔云平台团队副总裁兼总经理杰森•韦克斯曼提供的一个数据。韦克斯曼表示,到2020年,英特尔相信将有三分之一的数据中心市场使用Altera专攻的芯片技术。

    Altera生产一种名为现场可编程门阵列(FPGA)的芯片,这种芯片在生产后还可以重新编辑。之前,FPGA只用于特定场合,由于它们面积更大、价格更高,性能通常也不如通用芯片,所以在普通服务器和工作站中并不常用。

    在涵盖数据中心的演示中,微软等客户正在使用FPGA来运行它们的搜索算法。在关于加速器的演示中,未来的机器学习用户正在目睹FPGA运行类神经网络。总之,英特尔认为FPGA会无处不在。在网络世界,FPGA已经在蜂窝基站中亮相,英特尔希望借助FPGA在这一领域获得更多的市场占有率。

    实际上,英特尔看待FPGA就像我看待Sriracha辣椒酱一样。它们无处不在。

    英特尔的乐观并不是毫无道理:这是硬件生态系统的各个层面向轻便性和定制化转变的一部分。由于“软件正在蚕食世界”,对一个要花18个月才能把想法变成某些成品的芯片公司而言,形势变得更加困难。至少通过FPGA,你可以提供一款能够改变的硬件产品,即便实现这种改变需要不菲的成本。

    一些初创公司正在试图改变目前的FPGA模块,让它变得更加灵活。对于这些公司来说,这也是一个机遇。例如,创业公司Flex Logic就在试图制造一种比当代芯片更快的FPGA。在软件方面,BitFusion希望帮助公司在最理想的硬件上运行他们的代码,同时不需要重现底层芯片的代码——无论它是不是FPGA。(财富中文网)

    译者:严匡正

    审校:任文科

    Three months ago Intel said it would buy chip maker Altera in a deal valued at $16.7 billion. It was a significant investment for the world’s largest chip company and much was made over the consolidation in the semiconductor industry. On Thursday however, we got a lot more color on why Intel plans to plunk down a considerable hunk of money for Altera.

    It basically boils down to this one statistic offered up by Jason Waxman, the VP & GM of the cloud platforms group at Intel. Waxman said that by 2020 Intel believes a third of the data center market could be using the type of chips that Altera specializes in.

    Altera makes a type of chip called a field programmable gate array, or FPGA, that’s really a fancy way of saying a type of chip that can be reprogrammed after its made. The industry has traditionally used FPGAs in specialty scenarios as opposed to putting them in common servers or workstations because they are larger, cost more, and generally don’t perform as efficiently as general purpose chips.

    In presentations covering the data center, where clients like Microsoft are using FPGAs to run their search algorithms to presentations on accelerators where future machine-learning customers are eyeing FPGAs to run neural networks, Intel sees FPGAs everywhere. In the networking word, FPGAs are already present in cellular base stations, and Intel INTC 1.54% is hoping to gain more market share inside those boxes with, yes, its FPGAs.

    Basically, Intel sees FPGAs like I see Sriracha. They belong everywhere.

    Intel’s optimism isn’t totally unfounded; it’s part of a shift to agility and customization that’s playing out at all levels of the hardware ecosystem. As “software eats the world,” it’s tougher to be a chip company designing and building a product that requires 18 months to go from idea to something physical. At least with an FPGA, you can offer a physical product that can be changed, even if that ability to tweak it comes at a cost.

    There’s an opportunity here too for startups trying to alter the current FPGA model to make it a little bit more flexible. For example, the startup Flex Logic is trying to make an FPGA that is a little bit faster than the current generation of chips. On the software side,BitFusion hopes to help companies run their code on the most optimal hardware for their current job without having to rewrite that code for the chip underneath—be it an FPGA or not.

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