Bolt Graphics: A New Entrant in the Graphics and Ray Tracing Market

By Anshel Sag, Patrick Moorhead - February 13, 2024

Bolt Graphics wants to shake up the graphics space, which hasn’t seen new competition in many years

Current State of the Graphics Market

The graphics market continues to evolve, even with limited players. One of the latest innovations in the market, ray tracing, has changed how the graphics industry renders 3-D objects and scenes. Ray tracing is a family of techniques that helps to simulate real-world lighting scenarios using algorithms for techniques including ray casting, path tracing, photon mapping, recursive ray tracing, and many more. Some techniques even blend ray tracing with rasterization to create hybrid rendering to maximize performance and image quality.

Until the last few years, hardware-accelerated ray tracing has been limited to high-end PCs and consoles, but recent architectural advancements in hardware and software have enabled it to run on mobile devices and in the cloud. This has significantly increased the size of the installed base of ray tracing–capable devices, increasing the possibility of more realistic and immersive graphics on virtually any device, anywhere.

The earliest ray tracing hardware in the early 2000s was initially intended to accelerate professional visualization applications, but it started as an offline renderer. Through a series of innovations in the late 2010s NVIDIA was the company able to popularize the use of ray tracing in the mainstream market by introducing the Quadro RTX series for professional applications in mid-2018, quickly followed by the RTX 20 series for gaming applications in September that year. Since then, the likes of AMD and Intel have followed suit in the desktop graphics space, and Arm and Qualcomm followed shortly after that in 2022 and 2023 respectively, with Apple finally coming to market with the A17 Pro last fall.

However, the graphics space also faces some challenges, especially with the consolidation of graphics companies, exacerbating the lack of competition. This has created a scarcity of non-infringing graphics IP and increased the cost and complexity of developing and integrating ray tracing solutions. All of these factors have created higher barriers to entry for new companies and limited the innovation and diversity of the graphics ecosystem.

Bolt Graphics Ray Tracing IP Solution

Bolt Graphics is a new company that wants to help solve the many problems in the graphics market and enable enhanced graphics to be put into more people’s hands. The company offers a complete ray tracing IP solution that covers the gamut of hardware, software, and services. For the hardware component of its solution, Bolt Graphics employs a chiplet design that is expected to ship on 4nm in 2025 with a tapeout in 2024. Bolt Graphics’ current solution focuses on client, automotive, and datacenter use cases, although that may change as its roadmap expands. Bolt Graphics has already stated that it has multiple tier-1 and tier-2 cloud providers interested in its server solution for the datacenter that could help to accelerate cloud and VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) workloads. It also has a GPU integration design win with a lead chip customer identified with automotive and data center applications. The four tier-1 customers it already has in its pipeline include mobile, client, automotive, and datacenter technology suppliers.

Bolt Graphics Products: Thunder and Lightning

Bolt Graphics is preparing to launch two chip architectures, Lightning for Mobile and Thunder for Data Center. Because Bolt Graphics’ designs are chiplet-based, they can scale up to four tiles for potentially 4x the performance. That higher performance profile is how Bolt Graphics can claim 2x better performance than its leading competitor’s graphics card, the NVIDIA RTX 4090. Bolt Graphics claims this level of performance with its 4x chiplet solution at under 200W, which is impressive consindering the RTX 4090 is rated at 450W TDP. We must see post-tapeout power and performance numbers to verify this.

While good hardware is of course necessary to deliver hardware-accelerated ray tracing, the software component is arguably equally challenging. Bolt Graphics’ SDK supports industry standards such as USD and MaterialX as well as Hydra, which enables seamless integration with existing graphics tools and workflows.

Bolt Graphics’ leadership team is brings credibility. It is headed by CEO Darwesh Singh, who has HPC and cloud experience. He is supported by Director of Graphics Engineering Barry Ruff, who has more than 30 years in the graphics space, and Director of Digital Design Engineering Noeme Salazar, who has more than 20 years of experience in digital design.

Bolt Graphics’ business model is based on IP licensing, royalties, and subscription fees. The company charges a licensing fee for IP blocks and NRE (non-recurring engineering) for any customizations a specific design might need. It also charges a royalty fee when the customer chip enters production. Finally, Bolt Graphics charges a monthly or annual subscription fee for its software solution, which provides access to updates, support, and further optimizations. The company believes that this is a capital-efficient IP and software licensing model. We believe that this approach is reasonable and can also help to build closer long-term relationships with customers.

Conclusion

Bolt Graphics’ mission is to bring better graphics to more places by offering higher performance at a better cost profile. Today, that means delivering a competitive ray tracing solution in a chiplet form. Bolt Graphics solution is a comprehensive approach to addressing the challenges of entering the graphics market as a new player. Initially, the numbers provided to us are promising, though we will need to see how its tapeout goes and whether the company can deliver on its planned 2025 commercial debut in customer silicon.

For more information, visit https://www.bolt.graphics/

VP & Principal Analyst | Website | + posts
Anshel Sag is Moor Insights & Strategy’s in-house millennial with over 15 years of experience in the IT industry. Anshel has had extensive experience working with consumers and enterprises while interfacing with both B2B and B2C relationships, gaining empathy and understanding of what users really want. Some of his earliest experience goes back as far as his childhood when he started PC gaming at the ripe of old age of 5 while building his first PC at 11 and learning his first programming languages at 13.
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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.