Tilera Scores $45M for Specialized Cloud Chips

Anant Agarwal of Tilera (far right) at Structure 2010

Tilera, a chip design firm that hopes to build a 200-core processor for hugely parallel compute problems, has raised $45 million in funding from investors that include Artis Capital Management, WestSummit Capital Management and Comerica Bank. The company has raised a total of $109 million, and now counts strategic investors Cisco (s csco) and Samsung among its backers. We’ve covered Tilera for years, ever since I named them one of the top 5 multicore startups to watch back in 2008, then again when it released its 100-core chip.

From that story:

Tilera scoffs at quad-core machines. The company’s chips already are used by 75 customers, and come with 36, 64, and now 100 cores. Agarwal says, “The core is the new transistor.” By cramming so many cores onto its chips connected by a mesh network of interconnect that allows the cores to communicate without bottlenecks, Bob Doud, director of marketing, says that Tilera can sell its chips to folks wanting faster memcached servers or better performance at web-scale computing. The chips, which provide 1.25 GHz of performance, are no match for Intel’s workhorse Nehalem processor that can top out at 3.3GHz. But Tilera’s chips only burn 33-50 watts instead of 130 watts that top-of-the-line Nehalem silicon can.

Tilera is joining other specialty chipmakers that are betting that the rising demand for computing power can’t be met by x86 processors without consuming too much power. Other chipmakers are repurposing popular chips from the consumer world, such as Nvidia’s (s nvda) emphasis on GPUs or Calxeda and Marvell’s (s mrvl) decision to bring ARM-based chips into servers (Nvidia recently joined this camp too). However, Tilera has scorned the more-popular architectures and has built its own design (it uses a RISC architecture), and it hopes to achieve 200 cores by 2013. In a call to chat about the funding, Tilera executives said the company has made progress porting common software used in networking gear and data centers to its chip and that one of the top three webscale data centers is using a server that contains Tilera chips.

Troy Bailey, VP of marketing at Tilera, dismissed the current threat of ARM-based chips, pointing out that the designs from ARM, which are more commonly used in cell phones, are not offering 64-bit processors yet. This limits their ability to run certain types of corporate software. As for other architectures, Bailey believes many different architectures will have a place in different sections of the data center. In the meantime, the $45 million for Tilera will help it pursue its original networking and embedded market while tweaking its basic design for more specific types of workloads inside hyperscale and cloud data centers. It’s a lot of money, but as we’re seeing with funding for companies such as SeaMicro or Calxeda, venture investors think it’s a big opportunity.

For more on Tilera’s position for the cloud, check out the discussion from last year’s Structure conference, where executives from SeaMicro, Tilera, ARM, Dell (s dell) and VMware (s vmw) discussed where the hardware for computers was heading.

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