Tabula garners $108 million in support of its virtual 3-D reprogrammable chips

Apr 18, 2011 by Bob Yirka report
Tabula garners $108 million in support of its virtual 3-D reprogrammable chips

(PhysOrg.com) -- In what many are describing as a game-changer, Tabula Inc. has closed on $108 million in investment funds from Greylock, NEA, Benchmark Capital and others, to bring to market its 3PLD ABAX programmable chips that have thus far proven to be both faster and less costly than competitors, Xilinx and Altera, makers of the larger, more cumbersome, field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs).

Tabula has achieved a new milestone in the development of reprogrammable chips by creating a that is not only reprogrammable, but is able to mimic how a 3-D chip might operate if one were available for use in real world conditions. Currently, FPGAs are somewhat sluggish compared to pre-programmable chips due to the larger footprint required for the reprogrammable components. Tabula has figured out a way around this problem by creating chips that are able to behave as a 3-D, or layered chip, by using a virtual swapping technique. In the announcement, Steve Teig, CTO of the company, likens it to a person stepping into an elevator, then instead of the elevator moving between floors (layers) someone moves all the furniture around on the current floor before the doors can open once again, giving the appearance of having traveled to another floor. The chip is capable of addressing up to eight different virtual layers, or folds, as the company calls them, at up to 1.6 Gigahertz.

FPGAs have traditionally been used in high-end equipment, such as MRI scanners, due to their high cost; but with this announcement comes the promise of reprogrammable chip sets being installed in everyday appliances, such as HDTVs and computers; an idea worth noting mainly for the fact that it should result in reducing consumer prices of these devices. This is because one of the major costs of electronic equipment is the huge over-head development outlays currently required for designing dedicated chip-sets.

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Industry experts from the editorial and analyst community discuss Tabula's breakthrough technology and potential disruption in the programmable logic market.

Devices with reprogrammable chip-sets could conceivably be updated over the internet, much as software updates are now done, thus giving new life to an aging product, and delaying its inevitable obsolescence, saving consumers even more money.

The $108 million is the largest round in a decade for a chip maker, and is perhaps a signal that investors are not just bullish on Tabula, but on the future of tech companies in general after a slight decline during the past few years of economic turbulence.

Explore further: Renesas announces SRAM using leading-edge 16 nm FinFET for automotive information systems

More information: www.tabula.com/

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User comments : 7

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zevkirsh
not rated yet Apr 18, 2011
the air force has had an interesting program to invite fpga proggramers to submit designs for flying fpga chips.
Eikka
4 / 5 (2) Apr 18, 2011
With programmability also comes the compromize of energy efficiency, because the extra silicon is also using extra power.
kevinrtrs
2.3 / 5 (6) Apr 18, 2011
This reprogrammability could also be used to increase prices of services - and if the users don't pay they don't get to play!
ZephirAWT
Apr 18, 2011
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
FrankHerbert
1.1 / 5 (53) Apr 18, 2011
Kevin manages to be a paranoid moron even when not forcing religion into every conversation.
unknownorgin
not rated yet Apr 19, 2011
I see where this is going, with one circut board you can have four 8 bit processors each running high speed sampling or two sixteen bit processors running graphics/display or one 32 bit processor number crunching or any combination of virtual hardware without having to physicaly change chips or a circut board. With enough memory it can emulate a very large processor that may not exist as a single chip. No more throwing away perfectly good computers because the latest operating system wont work with the old hardware.

EWH
not rated yet May 07, 2011
While Tabula has some very promising technology - the only true reconfigurable computing architecture - the video has absolutely nothing to say about it. It's all vapid market-speak, soundbites and jump cuts juiced up with annoying electronic music. Tabula is not in any sense "3D" and "space-time" is just a dumb brand name in this context.

The claims that Tabula computers will get dramatically faster - beyond Moore's law is also hype. You'll be able to load bigger slices at one time as transistors get smaller, but MHz hasn't improved much in the last 5 or 6 years, and I doubt that we'll be seeing a doubling of MHz even by 2021. Software(firmware) improvements may get better performance, but the tools for creating the designs loaded onto FPGAs are still expensive and difficult to use.
EWH
not rated yet May 08, 2011
Some hard to find info: the low end chip is $105, the high end chip is $200 (qty. 2000). The latter will be $500 for qty. one and will have 1280 1.6GHz 18-bit multipliers with 44 bit accumulators, thus potentially giving over 1TMAC performance even for 36-bit. The only chip so far released is the 2nd highest spec, which is about $125/2000, and has no DSP functions. User clocks are from 200-1600MHz.

The development software and kit were released in mid-February, finally making this a usable product. The dev. board is $7500 (but is quite impressive, being usable immediately for real product development in several fields). The EDA software is cloud-based and is free with the dev. kit. Cloud hosting should allow users more processing power and no configuration headaches. Security for designs is said to be built into the system.

Available IP includes the Coldfire V1 CPU (68000-compatible), PCI-e, and several high-speed memory and network controllers.

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