In March 2010, exactly a year ago, Tabula announced its product, the 40-nm ABAX device. The device promised a little revolution with its virtual 3D architecture, based on time multiplexing and continuous reconfiguration of its logic. At the time I mirrored Tabula’s announcement with Tier Logic’s, another PLD startup. I wondered whether Tabula could be successful, and I expressed some concerns about how much of an advantage in performance Tabula could get against a Xilinx or an Altera that can smoothly scale down their node size. Also questions were raised about the complexity of synthesizing and verifying an automatically time-multiplexed design, as well as about the extra power consumption required to reconfigure the logic with a frequency of 1.6 GHz.
Four months after that post, Tier Logic ceased to exist after failing to close its second round of funding.
On March 28th 2011, Tabula announced it has secured $108 million in Series D funding. Crosslink Capital and DAG Ventures are the main investors, with Balderton Capital, Benchmark Capital, Greylock Partners, Integral Capital, and New Enterprise Associates renewing their confidence in that fourth round. This brings the total investment in Tabula to $214 million, not a small feat, given that the semiconductor industry has found difficult to entice VC money for years.
Also Tabula said that Cisco was a customer, and that a Tier 1 equipment vendor has completed a base station design using Cisco’s chips.
So with $108 million in hands, Cisco as a customer, Tabula’s future looks bright, right?
I still want to see how the software part will unroll. Tabula announced Stylus back in February, which provides a full synthesis and P&R that automatically manages the reconfiguration and mapping to the device. Not to deny any innovation, Stylus is running in the cloud and can be used from a web browser. I am looking forward to hearing customer feedback of the experience.
Tabula has certainly the means to hire top-notch engineers to produce the best possible synthesis and P&R, attract the best sales people, and possibly roll out new hardware. Tabula claims they can provide the same capacity and performance offered by a $1000 leading FPGA (read, Xilinx or Altera) for only $200. And, in the words of their VP marketing, they are looking at “not just the $5 billion FPGA market but the $110 billion market made up of FPGAs, ASSPs and ASICs”.
I will wait and see with a healthy skepticism, given the many promises and still-to-be-seen achievements of the virtual 3D technology.