The Six Five on the Road at the Lattice Developers Conference

By Patrick Moorhead - December 5, 2023

On this episode of The Six Five – On The Road, hosts Daniel Newman and Patrick Moorhead welcome Jim Anderson, CEO, Esam Elashmawi, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, and Steve Douglass, Chief Technology Officer at Lattice Semiconductor during the Lattice Developers Conference for a conversation on the key themes of the event, the latest announcements and more.

Their discussion covers:

  • Key themes of the Lattice Developers Conference event
  • Highlights of the announcements made by Lattice
  • How Lattice is partnering with NVIDIA with regard to AI
  • The innovations driving the latest Avant product releases and their application use cases
  • What Lattice is most excited about for the future

Learn more about the event on Lattice’s website.

Watch the video here:

Or listen to the full audio here:

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Patrick Moorhead: The Six Five is on the road at the Lattice Developer Conference, here in San Jose, California. Dan, we have been chronicling FPGAs for a while, and I have to admit that Lattice has brought the sexy into FPGAs, and whether it’s versus Asics, versus controllers and even competitive, they have absolutely amped up this market. It’s pretty exciting to watch.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, it’s been a really great run for Lattice Semiconductor. The company has been really firing on all cylinders, diversifying the business in really meaningful ways and competing. And as we know, there’s a pretty large spectrum of FPGAs, and the company has really found a way to differentiate itself at the low end and has been working its way up the stack. And part of that process of working your way up the stack, requires a bigger ecosystem, more developers, more growth. And this is exactly what the leadership team is doing. And so glad to be here in San Jose for their first developer conference.

Patrick Moorhead: First developer conference, which, as I’ll reinforce many times, I think is a big milestone-

Daniel Newman: Huge.

Patrick Moorhead: … for the company. So without further ado, let’s welcome back Jim, Steve, and Esam. Great to see you guys.

Esam Elashmawi: Good to see you too.

Jim Anderson: Thanks for spending time with us. Appreciate it.

Patrick Moorhead: It’s exciting stuff. And again, I’ve seen the demos, seen the announcements, but let’s absolutely dive right in here.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, it’s been a lot of fun to follow and I’m sure you’re sitting over there, what are they going to say? How are they chronicling us? It’s fun to be the analyst because companies are always kind of wondering, what’s the outside view look like? Well, the outside view has been very positive and it’s been great, and everybody that’s out there, that’s spent a little time with us has seen. We’ve spent some good time with you guys and you’ve earned our attention and we’ve appreciated having the chance to watch your growth, not just in revenue, but in products and customers and partners. And my feeling is, we’re going to see a lot of that this week. So let’s start with kind of that, Jim, overall, the decision to go down this path. Anytime you open the door, you kind of open up, say, “Well, will the partners show up? Are we going to get the names that people want to see? Are there going to be enough people on the stream watching it?” So what was the-

Jim Anderson: Now you’ve got me worried, Daniel.

Daniel Newman: No.

Jim Anderson: I mean, come on.

Daniel Newman: You aren’t worried. Or maybe you are, I don’t know. It’s okay. It’s okay. You look okay, though. Tell us a little bit about the genesis behind doing a developer conference?

Jim Anderson: Kind of why we decided to-

Daniel Newman: Yeah, why’d you go this route?

Jim Anderson: Yeah, we thought, look, we just thought it was a great time to do a developer’s conference. And I guess it’s a number of different reasons, right? First of all, when you look at the number of FPGAs that are getting used across the industry, it just keeps growing and so many different applications. Actually, when I spend time with our customers, Lattice has over 10,000 customers. When I talk to our customers, I’m always amazed by the new applications and usage models they find for FPGAs. And then, look, if you look over the last, let’s say 10 years, there’s been about 5 billion FPGAs deployed by the industry. Over the last 10 years, actually, almost half of those were Lattice FPGAs. So Lattice actually has, we believe, the largest installed base of FPGAs out there. And then, when we look forward to the next 10 years, we think that number of FPGAs is actually going to more than double over the next 10 years to actually be over 10 billion. So just a lot of FPGAs used across a lot of applications. But the other reason is, look, we have a really, really vibrant developers community. If you look worldwide, we estimate that there’s about 50,000 active FPGA developers worldwide and that they generate or start new FPGA designs of over a hundred thousand per year, new design kickoffs each year. So I mean, that’s a really vibrant community. So perfect time, we thought, to do an FPGA conference, especially when you take into account, look Lattice today, we have the biggest product portfolio we’ve ever had in our company’s 40 year history.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah. Part of that chronicling was watching your focus and then you started adding and layering on, again, I call it bag of parts. I used to be a bag of parts, I work for a bag of parts company.

Jim Anderson: We like to use a little bit better terminology than that, Pat.

Patrick Moorhead: Yes, but as compared to your solution stacks. And that has been a big part of it. Because historically, even when I was either doing systems or semiconductors, FPGAs were very complex and very useful. And by adding these solution stacks, the applicability in the market, the market segmentation and the ability for you to address those markets, really has gone up exponentially. So that’s one of the things that I’ve noted. And the other part, again, was adding and layering on new products. So Steve, here we are at developer conference. You have some big news coming out here. What are some of the highlights of that?

Steve Douglass: I think probably, the biggest highlight is, we are significantly expanding our mid-range FPGA offering. As you said, we’re moving up the stack and there hasn’t been a lot of great innovation in the midrange for a while. And-

Patrick Moorhead: We have seen some 10-year-old designs that are still being newly integrated. It’s one thing to have an installed base, right? It’s like, “Hey, I might not open this up,” but yeah, things that are 10 years old being put in new designs.

Steve Douglass: Yeah. And we built a brand new architecture with Avant from the ground up, specifically, optimized for those mid-range design requirements. And when we launched Avant last December, we did our first family kind of optimized for edge processing, but we have two more new families that we’re introducing today. We have a general purpose family that has a lot of great features and performance that covers a whole range of different applications. And I guess, the one that really gets me excited is Avant X. That’s the one where we-

Patrick Moorhead: Oh, so you do like some of your children better? Okay. Just so we get that out there.

Steve Douglass: We like them in different ways, but Avant X, we really jacked up the bandwidth on that device. And we have a terabit per second of total system bandwidth. That really opens a lot of doors and now we can really be, our FPGAs can be used in data path applications, not just system control. And so it really is going to open a whole new set of applications that we can go after with our FPGAs. And of course, our general purpose FPGAs are great for doing a lot of applications, like connectivity to the cloud and integration of all disparate types of sensors that need to be aggregated and fused together and processed on the edge. And so these two families are going to really expand the applications we can serve. But it’s not just about the silicon, it’s about the software too. And we have brand new releases of our development tools for FPGAs, our embedded design environment, as well as several of our application targeted solution stacks. And we’ve got a lot of things in there that will help customers develop mid-range FPGAs. Things like block-based design, incremental compile, automated scripting types of things that really help customers get their designs done more quickly and get to market sooner.

Patrick Moorhead: I love it.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, it’s really a powerful combination. And whether it’s FPGAs for secure boot operations or in layering on AI capabilities, which of course, has been the theme of the year, Pat. We’ve actually made it like five minutes into a conversation. I don’t think we actually said AI.

Patrick Moorhead: No, I know.

Daniel Newman: But you have some really meaningful, I remember last year at one of your conferences, seeing the demonstrations of some of the ways that you are supporting AI applications at the edge. We know autonomous vehicles and the complexity of sensors and cameras creates a lot of opportunity for FPGAs. And as an analyst, that toes the line between the markets and of course, the technology. I’ve also watched you double plus your SAM, which is something that is really important. And as you double your SAM, that means you need to double the ecosystem, the partners you need to expand to get new reach and drive new opportunities. Now this event, it looks like Esam, you have some tremendous guests that are going to come on stage from companies that have really, speaking of AI, taken the world by storm, but also companies that are the bedrocks of their industries that are partnering with Lattice, that are growing their utilization of FPGAs. Talk a little bit about the ecosystems and the partners and those that are going to be showing up here at the developer conference. And also how did you attract these kinds of companies to show up and really give their vote of confidence to what you’re doing here?

Esam Elashmawi: Yeah, so good question. So the ecosystem itself, is really important for any type of new products that we’re introducing, especially FPGAs. If I go back to when we started this journey back in 2018, I think all of us were here at that time, the ecosystem was very modest, and now it’s grown by more than five X. So what does that mean? That means, if you go out there today and you look at the ecosystem around FPGAs, there are more companies today that are actually building IPs that can be put into Lattice FPGAs. If you go and look at the reference platforms that are being launched, and these are reference platforms by companies and by other semiconductor companies, there are more and more now, leveraging Lattice hardware and software in those reference platforms. And if you look at just the number of developers and companies that are trained on Lattice hardware and software solutions, that’s just increased tremendously as well. So the ecosystem has grown significantly. Now, your question was about how did we attract these people and who’s at this developer’s conference? I want to remind you that, when we set out to do the Avant platform, we had a hundred plus customers that told us, “Here’s what we want in a mid-range, here’s what we need.” And we said, “Look, we’re going to go and develop this mid-range platform for you, but we want you to be part of this journey.” That include a lot of customers and some ecosystem partners as well. So here we are today, Lattice’s Developers conference. This is an FPGA conference. And what we’re really pleased about is that in this conference, there’s more than 35 plus sessions around FPGAs and how to get the best out of FPGAs, not just around artificial intelligence, sensor to cloud, security, but a variety of topics.

And these sessions and panels that we’re going to have as well, aren’t just driven by Lattice, they’re driven by the ecosystem and our customers. In the demo showroom, which you guys have seen, the demo showroom has more than 40 plus technology demos, and that’s really impressive. Our customers and partners are in that demo showroom. More than half of them are showcasing these demos on how they’re leveraging technology and the innovation that they’re bringing into the market around different areas. Around AI again, connectivity, security. So that was really exciting to see the amount of people that are willing to come in and participate in this developer’s conference. And then, you kind of alluded to it, we had also, three keynote speakers that we’re really excited about. One was from NVIDIA, and here’s our AI topic again, and this is around AI at the edge. And they talked about the challenge and the partnership we’ve had with NVIDIA in solving something really critical in the industry, which is, how do you get sensors that were never designed to communicate with compute to get them to communicate with compute so you can do edge AI types of applications. So the partnership was announced and we’ve got boards and we’ve got demos of this that are available for our customers, and we’re really excited about that. We also had one of our partners, which is Meta, come, and we had their head of security, Indie, come in and talk about security challenges in a data center today. Regulations are increasing, the ecosystems around data centers are getting larger. So how do you get security? How do you maintain security and have it adaptable over time? And so Indie shared some of the challenges and how that’s being addressed. And we’ve had a partnership with Meta on that. And then, we had what we thought will be a really good proof point around factory automation. And so we had BMW, if you haven’t been to that factory, I know Jim and I have been.

Jim Anderson: Yeah, we’ve been to that factory.

Esam Elashmawi: Really nice factory-

Jim Anderson: It’s amazing.

Esam Elashmawi: … and it’s amazing what they do there. We had the head of IT, Fred, come in and share with everybody Industrial 4.0, what’s happening and how to leverage programmability and the partnership we have developed with it.

Daniel Newman: Were you in South Carolina or which one did you go to?

Esam Elashmawi: We went to the one in Munich. Munich, yeah. The large one.

Daniel Newman: You went to the Mothership.

Jim Anderson: Amazing factory.

Esam Elashmawi: Yeah, they have an innovative hub there that we’re helping out in, and it’s impressive what they do in that factory. So we had a lot of really good partners and customers that really traveled from around the world, from Europe and APAC and across the US, to participate in this conference. So really excited about it. And again, this is an FPGA conference on how we share best practices and how we innovate more together.

Patrick Moorhead: Part of the benefit, and sometimes it’s hard to measure of a developer conference, is the shared experiences that the partners have. It’s one thing where you can post examples of it online and they can go read it, but now you have people eating meals together, having drinks together saying, “Hey, what did you do? How did you do that?” And that’s something that it’s very hard to measure, but I really think it’s some of the biggest value of developer conferences.

Esam Elashmawi: And networking is important.

Patrick Moorhead: Exactly. And when it comes to BMW, Meta and NVIDIA, those aren’t exactly small names. Those are huge names out there that, in each of their areas, are cutting edge for things that they’re doing. I have to ask you about NVIDIA though, maybe a little bit of a double click. So Nvidia does their own AI processing. I know you explained a little bit, but let’s do the double click on that. Is it pre-processing? Is it feeding signals? What are you doing? And then what are they doing in a system?

Esam Elashmawi: Yeah, so when you think about AI on the edge, you can probably put into two simple categories. There’s stuff that we do very well and we’ve demonstrated at inferencing on the edge, low power with an FPGA-

Patrick Moorhead: At very small wattage. How many watts?

Esam Elashmawi: Milliwatts.

Patrick Moorhead: Milliwatts.

Esam Elashmawi: Milliwatts of power.

Patrick Moorhead: Okay, just want to get that out there, folks.

Esam Elashmawi: Milliwatts of power. But there are also applications on the edge that require, you need the super compute power of a data center, but you can’t afford that latency. So what you want to do is, you want to bring that supercomputer closer and closer to the edge. And NVIDIA, they’re leaders. They’ve got the Orin project and processors that are super computers that you can put closer to the edge. But like we said earlier, sensors were never made to communicate with that directly. So our partnership was how do we take sensor data? And there’s so many varieties of sensors out there. I mean, we estimated more than tens of billions of sensors out there. Think of all the different data streams, interface standards, formats of data. How do we bring that in, leverage our low power technology to bring it in, aggregate it, compute, add some compute to it, and then translate that into a language that the Orin project can then consume? And then you can apply a lot of the NVIDIA know-how and software tools to be able to get your AI at the edge. And so, this is something that’s been a challenge for the industry and we’ve been working on it with NVIDIA for a while, and we’ve got boards now available for our customers. And a lot of this will be open sourced on GitHub as well, so that others can take it and actually add to it as well as part of the ecosystem.

Daniel Newman: As you go generation to generation, as you announce new parts, of course, what you’re doing, I talked about the SAM expansion, which is great, but you’re also, generally drumming up some new applications. It creates that additional SAM. You’re saying, “Hey, we could do this before, but now, because we’ve announced Avant Plus, we can do Y.” And why there’s all this demand for it. And so Pat and I always say, the ground truth, besides earnings, Jim, for any company, is always the combination of the customers and the use cases. So what are the use cases with these new offerings and with this expanded ecosystem and these improved software offerings that you’re seeing that you think are really going to be the driver of success? And what are you really hoping to land here at the developer conference?

Steve Douglass: Yeah, I think there’s a very broad range of applications that we’ve opened up with Avant. There’s a lot of great capabilities that we have in our Nexus family and it scales and meets the needs of those small FPGA applications. But when we built Avant, we really wanted to scale up those capabilities. So we’re building FPGAs that are five times bigger, they’ve got 10 times the serial bandwidth and system bandwidth and up to 30 times the compute capability as well. So with all this extra horsepower, what we’re seeing is, customers are significantly upgrading their systems, but since we’re so power efficient, they can do it within the same power and thermal envelope that they had before. So a lot of systems on the edge are integrating a lot more AI capability, and we’ve actually optimized the FPGA fabric for doing hardware acceleration of those AI algorithms. And like I said, we also have a lot of flexibility in the IO that allow us to do these sensor aggregation, like we’re doing with NVIDIA, and the ability to process and fuse data streams from many different sensors, smoothly integrate that and send that off to the cloud with high bandwidth. We also have a lot more system bandwidth that allows us to be in the data path of many applications like networking. We can take in a whole bunch of streams coming in at a 25 gigabit per second, we can format that, process it, retransmit it out in a different standard, all at the line rate of the system. That’s a type of application that is going to be new for us at Lattice. And I think that’s really going to expand our footprint in several of the markets, such as comms and compute. And so a lot of great new capability for scaling traditional applications in industrial, but also opening up new applications as well in the areas across the markets of comms, compute, and even industrial and automotive.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, I’m super excited just to get the details on how your customers are using Avant, how they plan on to use it, the benefits they’re getting from it. So we talked a little bit about the past in the runup here of Lattice. We talked about what y’all are doing today and a little bit about what you’re doing at your developer conference, but you’ve all been at the company for five years. I mean, it’s hard to believe this, right? That it’s been this long. It’s been fast. It is been a lot of hard work and y’all have changed the company completely. But so I have to ask, looking forward, and Jim, I’m going to start with you, but if y’all want to add something in there, what are you most excited about the future of where you’re headed?

Jim Anderson: Yeah, definitely. And maybe I’ll start with, I can’t believe it’s been five years. I mean, God, that went by so fast. And just before I talk about the future, just to give a little bit of credit to the team, is the company, like you said, it’s changed a lot over the last five years. I mean, just one example with Steve and the engineering team, they tripled the output rate of new products. Over the last few years, our just rate and pace of new product introductions was three times what it was prior. So that’s basically, tripling the rate of innovation that we’re bringing to our customers.

Patrick Moorhead: You made that commitment at your first analyst day.

Jim Anderson: Yeah, we talked about that, good memory, at our first analyst day.

Daniel Newman: We did, yes. I said, “Okay, game on. Let’s do it.”

Jim Anderson: And the team made that happen. And so as we’re here today, the company has the strongest and broadest product portfolio it’s ever had in its 40 year history. And so I think I’m certainly really proud of what the team has done to date. But I would say, and I think I speak on behalf of all three of us, when we look forward over the next five, 10 plus years, we’re much more excited about where we’re headed, moving forward. In fact, we still feel like we’re kind of scratching the surface of what the company can really do. And so definitely, you can count on us to continue to rapidly expand out the product portfolio. Today, as part of the developer’s conference, we’re announcing a bunch of new silicon, a bunch of new software, et cetera. But you can expect that beat rate of steady innovation to continue and for that product portfolio to continue to expand. And that’s probably, at least for me, because I’m a product guy. At the end of the day, I love… I think, for me, that’s the most exciting thing, is the path that we’re on to continue to rapidly expand the product portfolio. But for me, that’s exciting. And I think our customers are excited about that too.

Daniel Newman: Well, I mean the results seem to speak for it, and you may be a little editorial here.

Patrick Moorhead: It’s okay, we’re analysts. We’re allowed to do that, I think.

Daniel Newman: As we end this thing though, is that the results have largely spoken for themselves. I mean, look, we’re coming out of a multi-year in many ways, technology recession. And of course, I am one of the people that’s always like, “Well, tech is deflationary.” And in many ways we’ve seen that with say, the AI boom. But for many traditional parts of the technology stack, it has been a very difficult couple of years. And as a publicly traded company, you guys face, every quarter, being assessed and scrutinized for your performance. And you’ve had a remarkably strong run. You’ve diversified your portfolio, you’ve gone from the low end, small FPGAs to the mid, and you’ve done this very successfully. You’ve expanded your SAM, you’ve recruited a very strong ecosystem, and you’ve grown the talent base, which of course, is going to be really important to the long-term scale of the company. So my assessment is, you have a lot to be proud. Of course, we’re going to continue to challenge you to do more, that’s our job. But I’m very excited to see how the developer conference goes and to see the reaction and to continue to monitor and track your progress. And just want to say thank you so much for joining us here on The Six Five.

Jim Anderson: Yeah, thanks for the time.

Esam Elashmawi: Thank you.

Jim Anderson: It’s always good to talk to you guys.

Steve Douglass: Thank you for having us.

Jim Anderson: Appreciate it. Thank you.

Daniel Newman: All right, everyone, The Six Five is on the road. We are here in San Jose at the Lattice Semiconductor Developer Conference, the first ever. Definitely not the last. For Patrick Moorhead and myself though, we’ve got to say goodbye. Hit that subscribe button, join us for all of our great content here on The Six Five. We’ll see you all later.

Patrick Moorhead

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.