For years, the Slovak-American company has been promising a universal chip that will surpass all competitors. However, it is still not on the market. Tachyum is suing Cadence for allegedly constantly pushing back the delivery of the chip’s functional blocks. It was not supposed to be an unfortunate combination of circumstances, but a premeditated plan and intrigues of the competition. The Slovak-American company is demanding over 200 million euros in compensation for incurred costs and lost income. Currently, it is announcing the delivery of the first chips by the end of this year, while mass production is to start in early 2023. Tachyum is also interested in supplying its processors to upcoming European supercomputers. According to its creators, the Prodigy universal processor from the Slovak-American company Tachyum is supposed to be revolutionary. For now, however, these are only promises, the real chip is still not on the market. The British technology news website The Register now reports that the supplier of the finished chip block – the company Cadence – is mainly behind the constant delays. Tachyum sees this as sabotage and filed a lawsuit against the American company at the Supreme Court in Silicon Valley, California. What is Prodigy The revolutionary nature of the Prodigy processor is supposed to lie in its universality, more precisely its homogeneous architecture. This means that one chip can fulfill the function of a central processor for general calculations (CPU), a graphics accelerator (GPU), as well as a special unit for artificial intelligence and machine learning (TPU). Today’s systems, on the other hand, need different types of chips for different tasks and data types. As a result, the Tachyum solution should be cheaper and more energy efficient than the conventional approach. Read also The El Capitan supercomputer will be built on next-gen AMD chips connecting CPUs… Tachyum already indicated problems in the past A few months ago, the company’s founder Radoslav Danilák explained in an interview for Živé.sk that the delays so far were due to the global Covid-19 pandemic also in reference to the need to replace the finished chip block with another one: “The surprise was not in our part of the chip, but in the finished one that we bought, and we were forced to replace it. But this process required a certain amount of time, engineers, as well as finances.” However, Tachyum’s CEO did not specify which block it was. In the semiconductor industry, it is common practice for a company not to develop the entire chip itself. He therefore purchases ready-made blocks, which he integrates into his product. It’s faster and cheaper than developing everything from scratch in-house. The design and production of chips are covered by intellectual property. This is also why finished chip blocks are referred to as “intellectual property (IP)”. If, for example, a startup or even an established company buys a finished part of the chip, it does not even risk infringing patents. In the lawsuit, Tachyum accuses Cadence of being misleading when providing the block in question, or several parts of the chip. The original agreement on the delivery of the IP was said to have been concluded in 2019, but despite the fact that it was supposed to be a ready-made and available solution that did not require any complex modifications, demanding development and implementation, the company had to constantly postpone its delivery in a usable state. They see Tachyum’s intention in this, but the accusation goes even further and literally talks about sabotage. “The fact that Cadence—an established industry leader—failed on so many fronts, including industry-standard components that its competitors were able to provide and were only the most current generations of technology that Cadence itself had implemented in the past, led Tachyum to suspect that the failures were not the result of incompetence, but a deliberate attempt by Cadence to sabotage Tachyum’s efforts to market as the first universal processor,” the filing states. The Slovak-American company specifies in the lawsuit that the then CEO of Cadence Lip-Bu Tan was also a member of the board of directors of two competing Tachyum companies, namely SambaNova and Nuvia. The second named in 2021 was bought by Qualcomm. The former head of Cadence was also supposed to participate in the investment funds Walden International and Walden Catalyst, which also financed other startups in the semiconductor industry. “Another member of the Cadence board, Young Sohn, is also a director of one of these investment funds,” the indictment reads. Pre-production motherboards with FPGA prototypes of the Prodigy chip. Source: Tachyum Tachyum reports that the partnership with Cadence resulted in two years of waste engineering work and operating costs. As a result of the constant delays, the company is also said to have lost revenue worth $206 million (more than €202 million after conversion), which it plans to recover from Cadence through the courts. Another $27 million (26 .5 million euros) for additional costs incurred in finding alternative suppliers of the necessary IP. Parts of the text in the lawsuit are censored and it is not so clear what IP Cadence was actually supposed to supply to Tachya. However, the press release dated May 12, 2020 mentions, for example, SerDes, which stands for Serializer/Deserializer. It serves to minimize the pins and connections needed for input and output, that is, communication between chips. A block in a pair is used and in high-speed communications, while converting parallel data to serial line transmission and vice versa. Read also Tachyum: Our chip is even more powerful than we expected, for an additional payment of 55 million… Real processors only in 2023 However, the status of the non-existent Prodigy processor should change soon. The company promises the delivery of the first samples by the end of this year, with mass production starting in early 2023. Let us recall that Tachyum is one of the possible suppliers of processors for the new national supercomputer Perún, which should cost around 70 million euros. Funding should be obtained from the resources of the Recovery Plan. We recently featured an interview with Slovak expert on supercomputers and director of the SAV Joint Activities Center Lukáš Demovič about what phase the entire project is currently in. However, the topic also has a transnational dimension. In June, the European Union announced that it plans to build its own supercomputer for 500 million euros from the “exascale” category as part of the EuroHPC program. Currently, there is only one device with similar performance in the world – the Frontier supercomputer in the United States, but others are also being planned. The European machine should be located in Jülich, Germany, and its operation will be in charge of the Supercomputing Center (JSC) there. A Slovak-American company has also signed a memorandum of cooperation with the given institution. Read also They want to operate a supercomputer in Košice: It’s a magnet, it will bring high-tech… That’s why Živé.sk already approached Tachyum with questions about whether it would somehow participate in the “exascale” supercomputer project. “Tachyum has agreed with the Jülich Supercomputing Center (JSC) that JSC will test HPC infrastructure built on the Tachyum Prodigy platform. Another meeting with JSC representatives is tentatively planned for the fall of this year,” the company said in early August, adding that it would be able to provide more details later. What does the term “exascale” mean? A machine with computing power of the “exascale” category offers a performance of at least one exaflop (EFlop/s). But this number depends on the types of calculations that the device performs. A real “exascale” computer must achieve this goal with 64-bit calculations, i.e. with double precision. At the same time, the company emphasized that participating in the construction of “exascale” supercomputers in Europe is its goal. In addition, it confirmed that it will build a limited number of platforms for evaluating the production quality of the Prodigy processor at the end of 2022. Read also What the Slovak supercomputer Perún will cost for 70 million, we will find out in the summer… (1 EUR = 1.0181 USD)
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