The fourth-round funding brings Tabula's total to $214 million. Tabula is spending that money developing SpaceTime, a radical technology that lets chip circuitry reconfigure itself while running a process. The result is a chip more compact than a large FPGA but more versatile than an Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC).
Tabula isn't saying what Cisco is using the chips for. Separately Tabula officials say a Tier 1 equipment vendor has completed a base station design using the chips.
Why this matters
Tabula has been fun to talk about, but now it gets serious. Investors want to prove the startup has a legitimate chance against FPGA giants Altera Corp. (Nasdaq: ALTR) and Xilinx Inc. (Nasdaq: XLNX).
It's an expensive gamble. Tabula's ABAX line of chips is being built on 40nm design processes, meaning their manufacturing is very costly (a point that was questioned by a reader last year). Tabula officials say they also need a heavy investment in the software to program the chips. "It's almost like two startups under the same roof," says Alain Bismuth, vice president of marketing.
Some investors are shying away from chips, but Tabula's backers see a rare big payoff looming. "I think they see we have a shot at not just the $5 billion FPGA market but the $110 billion market made up of FPGAs, ASSPs and ASICs," Bismuth says.
The lowdown on Tabula's relatively short history:
- Startup Applies Spacetime to FPGAs
- Tabula Heads for the Cloud
- Tabula Launches ABAX Family
- Tabula Debuts 3D FPGAs
- FPGA Graveyard
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading