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NetSpeed Disappears Into Intel

October 2, 2018

Author: Linley Gwennap

Network-on-a-chip (NoC) vendor NetSpeed Systems is now part of Intel, giving it a good exit but leaving its customers without a roadmap. The deal gives the x86 giant full access to and control of NetSpeed’s tools, which simplify development of large processors and SoCs by automating the design of the on-chip interconnect, or NoC. We expect Intel will use these tools to engineer its next-generation PC and server processors. It will continue to support existing NetSpeed customers, but we don’t expect it to offer them any new products or major revisions to the NoC technology.

NetSpeed has developed several generations of its NoC intellectual property (IP), called Gemini. The company raised $13 million, mainly from Walden Ventures and Intel Capital. Lip-Bu Tan, Walden’s chairman, is also CEO of Cadence (and chairman of NetSpeed’s board), and NetSpeed operated for years out of a Cadence building, leading to speculation that the EDA-tools vendor would ultimately acquire NetSpeed. Instead, the startup went to Intel. The chip giant was already a customer, using the NetSpeed tools to develop its latest FPGAs. Jim Keller, who recently joined Intel, led the acquisition. The team is now part of Intel’s massive Silicon Engineering Group, which Keller manages. Former CEO Mitra continues to lead the team as an Intel vice president.

Unfortunately, NetSpeed’s other customers are left in the lurch. Intel will honor all existing contracts for product delivery and support, but it’s unlikely to extend these contracts or sign new ones. Once these customers finish their current designs, they’ll probably turn to other NoC vendors. The biggest beneficiary will likely be Arteris, which has a similar range of products. Sonics also offers NoC IP. The NetSpeed acquisition strengthens Intel’s design capabilities while consolidating the small but growing NoC market.

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