Lattice Semiconductor Defense Event: The Best Defense is a Clearly Differentiated FPGA Portfolio
by Ron Westfall | October 9, 2020

The News: Lattice’s Defense Event kicked off with a General Session that highlighted strategic perspectives from CEO Jim Anderson and Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer Esam Elashmawi about how the company’s low power, reliable FPGAs and solution stacks are designed to simplify and accelerate the development of mission-critical defense applications and defense systems. Following the General Session, the Analyst Breakout Session provided opportunity to deep dive into Lattice’s portfolio capabilities and roadmap. Read the full Lattice Semiconductor Defense Overview.

Lattice Semiconductor Defense Event: Shows How Defense Acumen Drives Innovation

Analyst Take: Lattice Semiconductor Defense Event fully demonstrated the vital role the company plays in providing the field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) that deliver state-of-the-art defense technology capabilities. Lattice shrewdly selected the defense/military sector to showcase why its portfolio is significantly differentiated and fulfills the unique semiconductor demands of the defense industry.

To kick-off, Lattice stressed its corporate experience and DNA in the FPGA industry and defense sector. Headquartered in the U.S. for over 35 years, Lattice plausibly claims it is the largest volume supplier of FPGAs in the world, providing the supply chain stability to enable clients to develop state-of-the-art integrated defense solutions.

Of significance, the company positions the Lattice Nexus FPGA platform as the only offering in the low-power, FPGA market segment that uses a 28nm, Fully Depleted Silicon on Insulator (FD-SOI) manufacturing process. Using the FD-SOI process applies an ultra-thin layer of silicon over a buried oxide as a means to reduce leakage and variation in chips and also boasts a back-bias feature, thereby reducing stress on a device.

Silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology pertains to the use of a layered SOI substrate in place of a conventional bulk substrate. FD-SOI relies on an ultra-thin layer of an insulator, described as the buried oxide, and is place on top of the base silicon. Accordingly, FD-SOI is a semiconductor substrate material with lower current leakage than alternative bulk complimentary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS).

As a result, I believe Lattice Nexus FPGAs deliver low-power consumption, smaller form factors, and higher reliability in relation to comparable rival FPGAs. The Lattice Nexus platform is designed to enable the continuous development of FPGAs with inherent radiation tolerance, a broad operating temperature range, and support for on-chip crypto solutions. Lattice FPGAs are a well-suited hardware platform for the development of SWAP-C (size, weight, area, power, and cost) optimized defense platforms for long-lasting mission critical systems.

Lattice Defense Event: Lattice Heralds FPGA Differentiators

From my perspective Lattice excelled at highlight why its FPGA portfolio is differentiated amidst a sea of competition. For starters, the Lattice FPGA portfolio delivers the lowest soft error rate and latch-up immunity, demonstrating more reliability than bulk CMOS FPGAs independent of the configuration bit technology.

I see Lattice’s ability to offer substantially small form-factors, starting at 2.5 mm x 2.5 mm along with reduced packages starting at 0.4 mm. I believe Lattice stands out especially in backing up its assertion that its FPGAs deliver 75% lower power compared to competitive FPGAs.

To confirm the power advantage of CrossLink-NX FPGAs (from the Lattice Nexus platform), Lattice engineers compared a CrossLink-NX-40 device to the closest comparable devices from the company’s competitors – in particular a Xilinx Spartan-7 50 and an Intel Cyclone 10LP 40.

Lattice Semiconductor Defense Event: The Best Defense is a Clearly Differentiated FPGA Portfolio
Table 1: CrossLink-NX FPGAs provide up to 75% power reduction as compared to competitor offerings.


Lattice performed the same confirmation for Instant-On considerations and metrics. Lattice emphasized there are two things to consider with regard to the time it takes for an SRAM-based FPGA to be powered up — the time for the inputs/outputs (I/Os) to be configured (a.k.a. I/O Configuration) and the time it takes for the programmable fabric to be configured from an external flash memory device (a.k.a. Self-Configuration).

Since FPGAs are often used in a first-on, last-off role to control the power-sequencing of other components in the system, it’s important that their I/Os achieve stable configuration as soon as possible.

To confirm the configuration speed advantage of CrossLink-NX FPGAs, Lattice again compared a CrossLink-NX device to a Xilinx Spartan-7 and an Intel Cyclone 10LP.

Lattice Semiconductor Defense Event: The Best Defense is a Clearly Differentiated FPGA Portfolio
Table 2: CrossLink-NX FPGAs provide up to 55x better I/O configuration instant-on as compared to competitor offerings.


In addition to power consumption and I/O configuration instant-on differentiators, Lattice emphasizes its development of hardened security engines with secure Unique ID and Side Channel Resiliency capabilities. Equally important, Lattice design tools offer the latest advanced design flows that enable secure, low-power applications across many iterations per day as well as accelerating time-to-market.

Lattice Defense Event: Key Takeaways

I believe Lattice’s decision to focus on the defense industry strengthened the company’s overall strategic messaging. Out of necessity, failure is not an option in the defense realm as it can literally be a matter of life and death. This includes the vital role Lattice’s FPGAs play in supporting the high reliability, secure and safety critical applications of the communications, data center, automotive, industrial, and high-volume consumer market segments, in addition to the defense & aerospace segment. Lattice smartly defined success in the defense area as being an instrumental and constant source of innovation across the industry’s ecosystem, especially since the industry is the wellspring for society-wide game changing technologies such as the Internet itself, GPS, drones, microwave ovens, and jet engines, that impact our daily lives.

Lattice’s commitment to the defense industry is warranted as up to 30% of U.S. defense industry spending is on FPGA technology, the secret sauce of many critical defense systems such as the Abrams tank and Hellfire missiles. Naturally, Lattice’s FPGA portfolio aligns with the company’s ongoing addition of artificial intelligence (AI) to its FPGA portfolio to help clients leverage more actionable intelligence into their decision making as well as prioritizing the development of hardware security solutions that protect devices across the entire lifecycle of the system.

I anticipate Lattice’s ability to clearly differentiate its FPGA portfolio against formidable rivals such as Intel and Xilinx will power its ability to defend the company’s leadership position as the largest volume supplier of FPGAs globally, fortifying its supply chain reliability in delivering cutting edge integrated defense solutions. Now Lattice is firmly positioned to validate that its investments in areas such as AI, automation, and cloud computing will help fundamentally drive hardware and software innovation across the defense industry as well as other industries.

Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.

Other insights from Futurum Research:

The Future Looks Bright for Lattice Semiconductor – The Six Five Insiders Edition

AI at the Edge — Futurum Tech Webcast

Artificial Intelligence Predictions for 2020

Image Credit: Edge AI and Vision Alliance