Four former Intel executives founded Primarion in May 1999 “to become the leader in advanced semiconductor solutions for high-speed data integrity.” The founders personally contributed $1.5 million. In February 2000, the company raised $13 million in venture capital funding from APV Technology Partners and Koch Ventures with corporate investments from Intel and ON Semiconductor. In November 2000, Primarion closed $38M in second-round funding led by Accel Partners and including the first-round investors. Primarion has secured more than $51 million to date. The company has 220 employees including 75 engineers and has almost 100 patents pending.
Collaborating with industry leaders, Primarion has developed its Active Signal Integrity Architecture (ASIA) technology to solve high-speed data and signal integrity problems in DSM digital designs. Primarion claims that its technology may result in up to 100x system noise reduction, 100x faster analog response to digital processor inputs and up to 50% performance improvement from a digital processor. The target market for ASIA technology is microprocessors that are operating at 1GHz or above and using 0.15u or below process technology.
Primarion purchased Lansdale’s bipolar fab in Tempe, Arizona and will use the fab to develop its ASIA technology as well as to continue to provide turnkey bipolar foundry services to automotive, analog, and communication IC OEMs. As part of the transaction, Lansdale will hold an equity position in Primarion, and Primarion will continue to supply military grade circuits to Lansdale.
Primarion is currently developing ICs to address 2 important determinants of overall system performance: I/O and power. Primarion Broadband Communications chips accelerate data throughput, reduce latency, and improve signal integrity over any transmission distance by providing short-reach, high-bandwidth optical links between and within computer systems. The company recently introduced the first products in its Broadband Communications product family, two PHYs that implement InfiniBand networks using any medium over any distance. The PX5120 Skip-Free Retiming Repeater Chip and the PX5110 SerDes fully implement the emerging InfiniBand Architecture Specification. Both devices operate at 2.5 Gbps rates.
The PX5120 Retiming Repeater extends InfiniBand signals across virtually any length of copper trace, cable or fiber, while increasing signal integrity. The chip uses a proprietary skip-free architecture, which allows the device to retransmit data at the same rate as the incoming signal while resetting the jitter budget, enabling an “infinite” length of InfiniBand links in a subsystem or network. Primarion claims the chip has better jitter performance, uses less power, consumes less board space, and is more cost-efficient than competing repeater schemes. According to Primarion, other retiming repeaters can only be used twice, while the PX5120 can be used any number of times, without restrictions and while remaining within the InfiniBand Spec.
The Primarion PX5110 single channel 2.5Gbps SerDes increases bandwidth between servers and routers with true signal integrity and is one of the first SerDes chips to fully support InfiniBand. The PX5120 is $30 @ 1Ku and is sampling now. The PX5110 is $18 @ 1Ku; samples are expected in Q4. Production for both ICs is scheduled for Q2 ’02. Primarion’s Broadband Communications Product roadmap includes a 4 channel SerDes, feature enhancements to the existing devices, 10 GbE backplane and shelf-to-shelf chips and optical packaging technology in 2002-2003 with integrated small form-factor optical and chip packaging technology to follow in the 2003-2005 timeframe.
Primarion’s Broadband Power IC product family enables processor power systems to mange the low voltage/high current requirements of multi-GHz processors. According to Primarion, the architecture of today’s voltage regulators cannot keep pace with advanced GHz processors. Processors may experience power droops, causing data corruption and subsequent system crashes or other problems. Primarion’s Broadband Power products intelligently monitor processor performance and inject the right amount of power at precisely the right time. The architecture injects charge spatially, close to the processor, and consists of a digital Spatial Controller, MHz Regulators, and GHz Regulators.
Bill Pohlman, chairman and CTO (most recently a VP in Intel’s Microprocessor Group)
Dan Clarke, president, director & and founder (formerly VP of Sales and Marketing and COO at Vivid Semiconductor)
Bob Carroll, VP of Engineering Operations (previously Director of the Microelectronics Center and most recently, Director of the Communications and Networking Division at MITRE)
John Burns, VP of Technology Development (previously founded Q3 Web Wideband Wireless)
Neil Shea, VP, Sales and Business Development (formerly VP and GM of VLSI Technology’s Internet and Secure Product Business Unit)
Mike Eisele, VP of Marketing (formerly GM of Intel’s Video Processor and Automotive businesses)
Brian Wong, VP of Business Development (previously manager of the Analog/Digital Converter and High Speed Digital Product Line at TRW)
Randal Buness, CFO (previously CFO of Three-Five Systems and Cerprobe)
Mark Strnad, VP of Operations (most recently Director of Operations for ST Microelectronics and VP of Manufacturing at Hyundai)