There’s been so much being said about Tilera over the last couple of days. Almost None of it dealt with the juicy facts we would like to hear. I’ve been doing some digging and managed to find out some details about the company. Before I get on to that though, I’ll do an in-depth review of the architecture:
It’s a homogeneous array of lightweight microprocessor cores with nearest neighbor interconnect. Oh, and a great programming environment too. Probably. And customers are begging for it. Oh god they are, why I heard that when they announced the chip was shipping, a crowd surrounded Tilera HQ in Menlo Park. The staff had to lock themselves in while desperate purchasers clawed at windows and doors until their fingers bled. They were chanting slogans like “The microprocessor is the new transistor!”, “Double our cores!” and “Freebird!”. They say a travelling salesman in Texas gave his teenage daughter in exchange for just ten of these wonderful devices.
Hmm… Enough of that craziness, let’s get down to brass tacks:
This article tells us that Tilera have $40m in funding. From this press release and this one, we learn that Tilera have managed to round up virtually all of this $40m in the last eight months. It seems though that they got some money in 2004.
Rob Chandra, a managing partner at “Bessemer Venture Partners”, invested in 2004, juding by what’s here. I guess this must’ve been the funding they used just to get funding.
Columbia Capital apparently led the Series B financing, that’s the most recent one that landed them $20m.
The archicture comes from RAW processor work done at MIT starting over a decade ago.
So what you have is a ten-year old academic project to which $40m, eight months and a marketing team have been added.
My questions to you regarding Tilera are these:
- Do you believe that a start-up company with $40m can get to where they claim to be in eight months?
- Do you believe that a startup can emerge with an architecture that has never been proven in battle and succeed, using only a $40m war chest?
- How much of this $40m do you think is being spent on marketing, given the hype that is being generated?
- Do you believe that this company has been able to develop a massively-multicore software development environment that is robust and productive, when that is generally recognised to be the grand challenge of our age?
- Do you think it might be possible that the investors are hoping to pump Tilera up, then transfer ownership to the smal investor via an IPO, à la Mathstar?
I mean, I know that TSMC, Tilera’s fab, are involved in the investment somewhere along the line, so that might lead to a saving in fab costs. But can you even fab a chip for $40m these days, never mind run a company and fab a chip? Barry West of AMI semiconductor says
Estimates for the total cost of developing a complex 90nm ASIC are between $20-$30 million.
And they could be expected to be higher for a 65nm process! So they’ve just about got the money to squeeze out a chip, but what about all their other expenses. What about software development?
To cut a long story short, Tilera are selling us a very implausible tale. It’s too early to conclude of course. Nevertheless, if I were a betting man (and the Lord knows I am) I would bet on Tilera’s eventual failure.
It wouldn’t be easy to disagree with the points Joe from scalability makes here. He’s right that not being IA isn’t as critical in Tilera’s targeted markets.
There’s a bit more information here:
According to this there are presently 10 customers.
On the subject of the funding, I think it was noted with surprise how soon it was after series A funding that they secured series B funding, something like a month. Anyway, I’m working from press releases here, so if anyone knows more, then please share :-)
I’ll hold my tongue for now though till I see more new information
This article from Jon Stokes at arstechnica is a good overview, highlighting the fact that the chips are 90nm.