Wheelings & Dealings: Intel to Buy Altera, Avago to Purchase Broadcom

By Paula Bernier June 01, 2015

Intel this week laid out plans to buy Altera for $16.7 billion in cash. The deal comes just days after Avago Technologies announced its intention to buy Broadcom for $37 billion.

Altera will bring to Intel its field-programmable gate array technology, which is more programmable than Intel’s semiconductors, and thus better able to address a broader scope of applications and to be altered as requirements evolve. Among the applications Altera has been talking about lately are high-definition video, intelligent vision-related systems, the Internet of Things, and virtual memory.

The company last month at an industry event demonstrated the use of its FPGA technology in intelligent vision-related systems, and Altera engineer Deshanand Singh spoke on the topic of "Efficient Implementation of Convolutional Neural Networks using OpenCL on FPGAs." He explained how convolutional neural network algorithms, which are becoming increasingly popular in embedded applications such as vision processing, can be expressed in OpenCL and compiled directly to FPGA hardware.

In April Altera joined the Industrial Internet Consortium and talked about how FPGAs enable intelligent and flexible IoT gateways and analytics acceleration.

“These platforms can benefit significantly from Altera’s hardware and software programmability, which can flexibly service fragmented application needs while offering the performance to cost-effectively accelerate analytics and security in the data center and IoT infrastructure,” David Moore, director of the industrial business unit at Altera, said at the time.

Image via Shutterstock

Late last year IBM promoted the fact that it was working with Altera on what they called the first FPGA-based acceleration platform. It uses the IBM Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface to connect an FPGA to a POWER8 CPU, which as a result can share virtual memory. The aim is to increase performance related to data center requirements in such areas as compression, encryption, image processing, and search.

The New York Times, which on May 29 reported a deal between Intel and Altera was likely, said two companies began discussions earlier this year, but Altera rejected Intel’s initial $54-per-share bid, after which Altera’s quarterly earnings fell below expectations. At that point, according to the Times, Altera investor TIG Advisors pushed for the company to reignite its conversation with Intel.

As indicated above, the Intel-Altera is just the latest recent pairing of semiconductor players. Avago Technologies also plans to buy Broadcom. The Motley Fool reports that Avago and Broadcom should have about $15 billion in annual sales – making it the third largest semiconductor company in terms of revenue, behind only Intel and Qualcomm.

That deal promises to save Avago and Broadcom $750 million in the first 18 months, according to Motley Fool, which says that while Avago has $2.6 billion cash on hand, Broadcom has $3 billion.

“The merger between radio specialist Avago and networking titan Broadcom creates a smaller version of Qualcomm, which already covers both of these markets,” according to The Motley Fool. “That's not a bad role model, given Qualcomm's track record of profitable growth, but I'm not sure Avago should be setting itself up for head-to-head comparisons with that particular juggernaut.”




Edited by Rory J. Thompson

Executive Editor, TMC

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