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Altera Corporation
Subsidiary of Intel
Industry Integrated circuits
Headquarters San Jose, California, United States
Key people
  • John Daane (CEO)
  • Dan McNamara (Intel PSG leader)
Products FPGAs, CPLDs, embedded processors, ASICs
Revenue US$1.783 billion (2013)
US$584.1 million (2013)
US$556.8 million (2013)
Total assets US$4.658 billion (2013)
Total equity US$3.333 billion (2013)
Number of employees
2,884 (December 2011)
Parent Intel

Altera Corporation was a leading American manufacturer of programmable logic devices (PLDs, reconfigurable complex digital circuits), from 1984 through 2015. [1] Altera released its first PLD in 1984. [2]

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

Programmable logic device reprogrammable computer hardware technology

A programmable logic device (PLD) is an electronic component used to build reconfigurable digital circuits. Unlike integrated circuits (IC) which consist of logic gates and have a fixed function, a PLD has an undefined function at the time of manufacture. Before the PLD can be used in a circuit it must be programmed (reconfigured) by using a specialized program.


Altera and Intel announced on June 1, 2015 that they had agreed that Intel would acquire Altera in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $16.7 billion. [3] As of December 28, 2015, the acquisition had been completed. [4] [5]

Intel American semiconductor chip manufacturer

Intel Corporation is an American multinational corporation and technology company headquartered in Santa Clara, California, in the Silicon Valley. It is the world's second largest and second highest valued semiconductor chip manufacturer based on revenue after being overtaken by Samsung Electronics, and is the inventor of the x86 series of microprocessors, the processors found in most personal computers (PCs). Intel ranked No. 46 in the 2018 Fortune 500 list of the largest United States corporations by total revenue. Intel is incorporated in Delaware.

The main product lines from Altera (now Intel) are the Stratix, Arria and Cyclone series FPGAs, [1] the MAX series CPLDs and non-volatile FPGAs, [1] Quartus design software, [6] [7] and Enpirion PowerSoC DC-DC power solutions.

Field-programmable gate array array of logic gates that are reprogrammable

A field-programmable gate array (FPGA) is an integrated circuit designed to be configured by a customer or a designer after manufacturing – hence the term "field-programmable". The FPGA configuration is generally specified using a hardware description language (HDL), similar to that used for an Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC). Circuit diagrams were previously used to specify the configuration, but this is increasingly rare due to the advent of electronic design automation tools.

Complex programmable logic device

A complex programmable logic device (CPLD) is a programmable logic device with complexity between that of PALs and FPGAs, and architectural features of both. The main building block of the CPLD is a macrocell, which contains logic implementing disjunctive normal form expressions and more specialized logic operations.



FPGA Developer-board with Altera Cyclone V SE FPGA Embedded World 2016, Altera Cyclone-V SE (02).jpg
FPGA Developer-board with Altera Cyclone V SE FPGA

The Stratix series FPGAs are the company's largest, highest bandwidth devices, with up to 1.1 million logic elements, integrated transceivers at up to 28 Gbit/s, up to 1.6 Tbit/s of serial switching capability, up to 1,840 GMACs of signal-processing performance, and up to 7 x72 DDR3 memory interfaces at 800 MHz. [8] Cyclone series FPGAs and SoC FPGAs are the company's lowest cost, lowest power FPGAs, with variants offering integrated transceivers up to 5 Gbit/s. In between these two device families are Arria series FPGAs, which provide a balance of performance, power, and cost for mid-range applications such as remote radio heads, video conferencing equipment, and wireline access equipment. Arria FPGAs have integrated transceivers up to 10 Gbit/s.[ citation needed ]


Stratix is a family of FPGA products developed by Altera. Other current product lines include Arria (mid-range) and Cyclone (low-cost).

System on a chip type of integrated circuit

A system on a chip is an integrated circuit that integrates all components of a computer or other electronic system. These components typically include a central processing unit (CPU), memory, input/output ports and secondary storage – all on a single substrate or microchip, the size of a coin. It may contain digital, analog, mixed-signal, and often radio frequency signal processing functions, depending on the application. As they are integrated on a single substrate, SoCs consume much less power and take up much less area than multi-chip designs with equivalent functionality. Because of this, SoCs are very common in the mobile computing and edge computing markets. Systems on chip are commonly used in embedded systems and the Internet of Things.


Since December 2012, the company has been shipping SoC FPGA devices. [9] According to Altera, fully depleted silicon on insulator (FDSOI) chip manufacturing process is beneficial for FPGAs. [10] These devices integrate FPGAs with full hard processor systems based around ARM processors onto a single device.

ARM, previously Advanced RISC Machine, originally Acorn RISC Machine, is a family of reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architectures for computer processors, configured for various environments. Arm Holdings develops the architecture and licenses it to other companies, who design their own products that implement one of those architectures‍—‌including systems-on-chips (SoC) and systems-on-modules (SoM) that incorporate memory, interfaces, radios, etc. It also designs cores that implement this instruction set and licenses these designs to a number of companies that incorporate those core designs into their own products.


In May 2013, Altera acquired embedded power chipmaker Enpirion for $134m in cash ($141m including the assumption of debt). Since that time, Enpirion has been incorporated into Altera by becoming its own product offering within the Altera portfolio of products. The Enpirion products are power system-on-a-chip DC-DC converters that enable greater power densities and lower noise performance compared with their discrete equivalent.[ citation needed ] Unlike converters made from discrete components Enpirion dc-dc converters are simulated, characterized, validated and production qualified at delivery. [11]


Previously Altera offered a publicly available ASIC design flow based on HardCopy ASICs, which transitioned an FPGA design, once finalized, to a form which is not alterable. This design flow reduced design security risks as well as costs for higher volume production. Design engineers could prototype their designs in Stratix series FPGAs, and then migrate these designs to HardCopy ASICs when they were ready for volume production.

The unique design flow makes hardware/software co-design and co-verification possible. The flow has been benchmarked to deliver systems to market 9 to 12 months faster, on average, than with standard-cell solutions. Design engineers can employ a single RTL, set of intellectual property (IP) cores, and Quartus II design software for both FPGA and ASIC implementations. Altera's HardCopy Design Center manages test insertion. [12]

IP cores

Altera and its partners offer an array of intellectual property (IP) cores that serve as building blocks that design engineers can drop into their system designs to perform specific functions. IP cores eliminate some of the time-consuming tasks of creating every block in a design from scratch.

Altera offers an embedded portfolio with a broad selection of soft processor cores:

And one hard IP processor core:

Design software

All of Altera's devices are supported by a common design environment, Quartus II design software. Quartus II software is available in a subscription-based edition and a free Web-based edition. It includes a number of tools to foster productivity.


40-nm technology

In May 2008, Altera introduced the industry's first 40-nm programmable logic devices: the Stratix IV FPGAs and HardCopy IV ASICs. [13] Both devices are available with integrated transceiver options. Since then, the company has also introduced Stratix IV GT FPGAs, which have 11.3 Gbit/s transceivers for 40G/100G applications, [14] and Arria II GX FPGAs, which have 3.75 Gbit/s transceivers for power- and cost-sensitive applications.

Semiconductors manufactured on a 40-nm process node address many of the industry's key challenges, including power consumption, device performance, and cost. Altera's devices are manufactured using techniques such as 193-nm immersion lithography and technologies such as extreme low-k dielectrics and strained silicon. These techniques and technologies bring enhancements to device performance and power efficiency.

28-nm technology

In April 2010, Altera introduced the FPGA industry's second 28-nm device, the Stratix V FPGA (to Xilinx's Kintex-7 FPGA), available with transceivers at speeds up to 28 Gbit/s. This device family has more than 1 million logic elements, up to 53 Mb of embedded memory, up to 7 x72 DDR3 DIMMs at 800 MHz, 1.6 Gbit/s LVDS performance, and up to 3,680 variable-precision DSP blocks. In August 2011, Altera began shipping 28-nm Stratix V GT devices featuring 28-gigabits-per-second transceivers. [15]

The devices also feature some unique features. Embedded HardCopy blocks harden standard or logic-intensive applications, increasing integration and delivering twice the density without a cost or power penalty. Altera has developed a user friendly method for partial reconfiguration, so core functionality can be changed easily and on the fly. And there is a path to HardCopy V ASICs, when designs are ready for volume production. Also, Altera’s 28 nm FPGAs aim to reduce power requirements to 200 mW per channel. [15]

In December 2012, the company announced the shipment of its first 28 nm Cyclone V SoC devices, which have a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor system with FPGA logic on a single chip. [16] [17] The new SoCs are targeted for wireless communications, industrial, video surveillance, automotive and medical equipment markets. [16] [17] With these SoCs devices, users are able to create custom field-programmable SoC variants for power, board space, performance and cost optimization. [16] [17]

14-nm technology

In February 2013, Altera announced an agreement with Intel to use Intel’s foundry services to produce its 14-nm node for the future manufacturing of its FPGAs, based on Intel’s 14 nm tri-gate transistor technology, in place of Altera’s ongoing agreement with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (TSMC). [18]

In October 2016, nearly one year after Intel's integration with Altera, STRATIX 10 was announced, which is based on Intel's 14 nm Tri-Gate process. [19]


Altera's largest competitor is FPGA founder and market-share leader Xilinx. [20] [21]

The next closest competitors are Lattice Semiconductor and Actel (now Microsemi), each representing less than 10 percent of the market. [20]

FPGA startup company Achronix is also a competitor but does not have any significant market share.

In broader terms, Altera competes with ASIC, structured ASIC, Metal Configurable Standard Cell (MCSC) like BaySand and Zero Mask-Charge ASIC companies like eASIC.

Specifically in ASIC, BaySand has introduced metal configurable FPGA (mcFPGA) products to fill the needs due to discontinued HardCopy from Altera.


On June 21, 2006, Altera Corp. restated its 1996-2005 financial results to correct accounting errors related to stock-based compensation expense. Altera's CFO resigned after an SEC investigation revealed the decade of misstated earning reports resulted from the company's alleged culture of backdating stock options. [22]

Acquisition by Intel

On June 1, 2015, Altera and Intel announced that Intel would acquire Altera in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately £15.73 billion ($16.7 billion). [18] As of December 28, 2015, the acquisition has been completed. [3] [4] [5]

Related Research Articles

Reconfigurable computing is a computer architecture combining some of the flexibility of software with the high performance of hardware by processing with very flexible high speed computing fabrics like field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). The principal difference when compared to using ordinary microprocessors is the ability to make substantial changes to the datapath itself in addition to the control flow. On the other hand, the main difference from custom hardware, i.e. application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) is the possibility to adapt the hardware during runtime by "loading" a new circuit on the reconfigurable fabric.

Xilinx company

Xilinx, Inc. is an American technology company that is primarily a supplier of programmable logic devices.

Nios II is a 32-bit embedded-processor architecture designed specifically for the Altera family of field-programmable gate array (FPGA) integrated circuits. Nios II incorporates many enhancements over the original Nios architecture, making it more suitable for a wider range of embedded computing applications, from digital signal processing (DSP) to system-control.

The PowerPC 400 family is a line of 32-bit embedded RISC processor cores based on the PowerPC or Power ISA instruction set architectures. The cores are designed to fit inside specialized applications ranging from system-on-a-chip (SoC) microcontrollers, network appliances, application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) to set-top boxes, storage devices and supercomputers.


MoSys, Inc. is a publicly traded fabless semiconductor company based in Santa Clara, California that sells solutions for data path connectivity, speed and intelligence while eliminating data access bottlenecks on line cards and systems scaling from 100G to multi-terabits per second. Prior to 2012 it also sold high-performance embedded DRAM under IP cores under the "1T-SRAM" moniker as well high-speed SerDes cores and DDR interface IP. Customers for MoSys IP included a wide range of IDMs, foundries, and other fabless semiconductor companies. Applications included networking, consumer products, graphics systems, general computing, and storage systems.

Transistor count the number of transistors in a device

The transistor count is the number of transistors on an integrated circuit (IC). It typically refers to the number of MOSFETs on an IC chip, as all modern ICs use MOSFETs. It is the most common measure of IC complexity. The rate at which MOS transistor counts have increased generally follows Moore's law, which observed that the transistor count doubles approximately every two years.

Actel Corporation was an American manufacturer of nonvolatile, low-power field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), mixed-signal FPGAs, and programmable logic solutions. It was headquartered in Mountain View, California, with offices worldwide.

Nallatech is a computer hardware and software firm based in Camarillo, California, United States The company specializes in field-programmable gate array (FPGA) integrated circuit technology applied in computing. As of 2007 the company's primary markets were defense and high-performance computing.

Intel Quartus Prime is programmable logic device design software produced by Intel; prior to Intel's acquisition of Altera the tool was called Altera Quartus II. Quartus Prime enables analysis and synthesis of HDL designs, which enables the developer to compile their designs, perform timing analysis, examine RTL diagrams, simulate a design's reaction to different stimuli, and configure the target device with the programmer. Quartus Prime includes an implementation of VHDL and Verilog for hardware description, visual editing of logic circuits, and vector waveform simulation.

Aldec, Inc. is a privately owned electronic design automation company based in Henderson, Nevada that provides software and hardware used in creation and verification of digital designs targeting FPGA and ASIC technologies.

Field-programmable gate array prototyping, also referred to as FPGA-based prototyping, ASIC prototyping or system-on-chip (SoC) prototyping, is the method to prototype system-on-chip and application-specific integrated circuit designs on FPGAs for hardware verification and early software development.

Virtex is the flagship family of FPGA products developed by Xilinx. Other current product lines include Kintex (mid-range) and Artix (low-cost), each including configurations and models optimized for different applications. In addition, Xilinx offers the Spartan low-cost series, which continues to be updated and is nearing production utilizing the same underlying architecture and process node as the larger 7-series devices.

Tabula (company) American fabless semiconductor company based in Santa Clara, California

Tabula was an American fabless semiconductor company based in Santa Clara, California. Founded in 2003 by Steve Teig, it raised $215 million in venture funding. The company designed and built three dimensional field programmable gate arrays and ranked third on the Wall Street Journal's annual "Next Big Thing" list in 2012.

In computing, a logic block or configurable logic block (CLB) is a fundamental building block of field-programmable gate array (FPGA) technology. Logic blocks can be configured by the engineer to provide reconfigurable logic gates.

Xilinx Vivado

Vivado Design Suite is a software suite produced by Xilinx for synthesis and analysis of HDL designs, superseding Xilinx ISE with additional features for system on a chip development and high-level synthesis. Vivado represents a ground-up rewrite and re-thinking of the entire design flow, and has been described by reviewers as "well conceived, tightly integrated, blazing fast, scalable, maintainable, and intuitive".

Verilog-to-Routing (VTR) is an open source CAD flow for FPGA devices. VTR's main purpose is to map a given circuit described in Verilog, a Hardware Description Language, on a given FPGA architecture for research and development purposes; the FPGA architecture targeted could be a novel architecture that a researcher wishes to explore, or it could be an existing commercial FPGA whose architecture has been captured in the VTR input format. The VTR project has many contributors, with lead collaborating universities being the University of Toronto, the University of New Brunswick, and the University of California, Berkeley. Additional contributors include Google, The University of Utah, Princeton University, Altera, Intel, Texas Instruments, and MIT Lincoln Lab.

iCE is the brand name used for a family of low-power FPGAs produced by Lattice Semiconductor. Parts in the family are marketed with the "world's smallest FPGA" tagline, and are intended for use in portable and battery-powered devices, where they would be used to offload tasks from the device's main processor or SoC. By doing so, the main processor and its peripherals can enter a low-power state or be powered off entirely, potentially increasing battery life.


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