Alchemy Semiconductor, based in Austin, Tex., is a fabless company with 80 employees developing high-performance low-power MIPS-based microprocessors. The company's SOC solutions target Internet-edge markets such as information appliances and gateways for both residential and enterprise applications.
The core of Alchemy's team has its roots in DEC's StrongARM group, which left and joined Cadence Design Systems just before Intel acquired DEC in early 1998. Cadence put up the seed money to establish Alchemy and, soon after, Cadence agreed to spin the group out into a separate company. Thus, Alchemy Semiconductor was born as an independent company in May 2000, with an additional $15 million in funding provided by U.S. Venture Partners, Austin Ventures and Telos Ventures.
Alchemy's first two products, the AU1000 and AU1500 (which includes a PCI interface), are 32-bit MIPS-based microprocessors with a set of peripherals. The high-performance and low-power capabilities of the company's processor core are impressive; Alchemy says its full-chip 400-MHz design consumes less than .5 W, and the 500-MHz and 200-MHz chips consume 900 mW and 200 mW, respectively. The company says its competitors'.5-W chips tend to be 200 MHz and below and those with 400- and 500-MHz designs tend to be 3 to 5 W.
Among Alchemy's competition is the SH family from Hitachi, as well as other MIPS companies such as IDT and NEC. Alchemy also competes with StrongARM from Intel?which is the product Alchemy's core team designed four years ago. Perhaps its most formidable competition will be Intel's XScale, which is the successor to StrongARM. However, XScale is still under wraps, so any comparison at this point is based solely on the product as it exists "on paper."
Alchemy will begin shipping the AU1000 to customers before the end of the year. The company says it has more than 100 evaluation boards in the market, about half with customers and half with software- and hardware-development partners. Alchemy already has an undisclosed number of design wins, primarily with U.S. and Japanese customers, which will be introducing products late this year or early next year. The AU1500 is taped out and at the fab, and Alchemy expects to ship samples to customers in Nov.
A third product, which Alchemy has not yet announced, will be taping out before end of year. The chip will be targeted at mobile devices and will have the same core as the AU1000, although with several additional features.
Alchemy's plans are to continue providing other products with different peripheral sets through next year. For example, the company is considering targeting networking markets more directly by adding different memory interfaces, faster networking capabilities, etc.
James Moore serves as Alchemy's CEO. Moore, who most recently served as president and COO of Crossroads Systems, is a founding general partner of CEO Partnerships and he is also chairman of the board of BOXX Technologies. Moore also spent 20 years in general management positions with Texas Instruments, Analog Devices and Cirrus Logic.
Co-founder and VP of engineering Greg Hoeppner opened DEC's Austin Research and Design Center, where he was engineering director responsible for StrongARM product development. Prior to that role, Hoeppner served as DEC's senior device engineer, and as a principal engineer in the design of a variety of chips. Earlier, he co-led the implementation and layout teams of IBM Workstation Division's first Alpha chip product.
Phil Pompa, co-founder and VP of marketing, previously served UMAX Computer as VP of corporate strategy and, earlier, VP of marketing for their Apple Macintosh clone product line. He also worked for AMD as the marketing manager for the 29K embedded microprocessor family, and he began his marketing career at ROLM and then ROLM Systems Division of IBM.
Co-founder and CTO Rich Witek worked for DEC in a number of roles, including senior corporate consulting engineer, software engineer, and a lead position on the uVAX team. He also spent time at Argonne National Laboratories in the Electron Division, worked as a consulting engineer at Apple, and held a position as part of the Somerset PowerPC group.
VP of worldwide sales Mike McCourt was previously senior VP of marketing for Avnet Electronics Marketing. Earlier, he worked for Motorola in a variety of positions, including director of operations for the PowerPC program. He was also a design engineer on PABX telecom systems for Plessey in the U.K., and the European marketing manager for discrete products at Texas Instruments.
Jim Montanaro, co-founder and engineering director, was one of the founding members of DEC's Austin Research and Design Center. He also worked as a design leader and a consulting engineer for DEC, and he spent time at Apple Computer as a circuit designer on the PowerPC 603 chip.
Co-founder and engineering director Richard Reis joined DEC in 1996, contributing to the SA1100 integrated StrongARM microprocessor. Earlier, he worked at Cyrix as a senior VLSI design engineer, and as an engineer and block leader at Motorola.
Before co-founding Alchemy, engineering director Ray Stephany helped start up DEC's Austin Research and Design Center, where he co-led or led a number of microprocessor designs. Stephany also worked in a number of other roles at DEC, as well as an advisory engineer in IBM's Workstation Division.