AMD’s prowess for making processors is formidable. On the consumer front, Ryzen CPUs have been growing among gamers for some time now. This achievement was even recently documented in the latest Steam Hardware Survey. On the console side, it has custom chips in two out of three brands. As huge as these markets are, it has an extremely impressive footprint in the data center segment as well. Its EPYC processors are so widely used that you can often find them paired with products from rival GPU company NVIDIA all over the world.
Now it appears AMD may be looking to expand its reach even further. The Wall Street Journal has reported it is trying to acquire FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Arrays) chipmaker Xilinx in a deal worth $30 billion. This deal is supposedly in the advanced stages, but there’s bumps in the road. Talks had stalled at one point, but they’ve recently resumed. Should this deal complete, it would enable AMD to catch up with rival chip maker Intel, who acquired another FPGA manufacturer called Altera in 2015.
Definition of FPGA
Field Programmable Gate Arrays are an integrated circuit that can be customized for a specific application. They are essentially programmable processors that can be used for a wide variety of applications by users. Below is a more detailed description from the Xilinx website.
Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) are semiconductor devices that are based around a matrix of configurable logic blocks (CLBs) connected via programmable interconnects. FPGAs can be reprogrammed to the desired application or functionality requirements after manufacturing. This feature distinguishes FPGAs from Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs), which are custom manufactured for specific design tasks. Although one-time programmable (OTP) FPGAs are available, the dominant types are SRAM based which can be reprogrammed as the design evolves.
We may not see such technology implemented on the consumer front, but it could easily assist with other solutions involving EPYC processors. AMD has already been hard at work with chiplet designs, which could facilitate FPGA implementations, but it might still make it to consumer-grade solutions in customized designs. Considering how console makers continue to diversify their product stacks, a custom SOC paired with an FPGA could provide more options for different models. As Jakob Engblom explains, such solutions could also provide backward compatibility.