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Xilinx, Inc.
Type Public
Founded 1984
Founder(s) Jim Barnett
Ross Freeman
Bernie Vonderschmitt
Headquarters United States San Jose, CA, USA
Area served Worldwide
Key people Philip T. Gianos
Chairman of the Board
Moshe N. Gavrielov
President CEO Director
Industry Integrated Circuits
Products FPGAs, CPLDs
Revenue $ 1.825 billion - 2008
Operating income $ 486 million - 2008
Net income $ 375.64 million - 2008
Total assets $ 2.825 billion - 2008
Total equity $ 1.737 billion - 2008
Employees 3,145 - September 2009

Xilinx, Inc. (NASDAQXLNX) is the world's largest supplier of programmable logic devices, the inventor of the field programmable gate array (FPGA) and the first semiconductor company with a fabless manufacturing model.[1][2][3]

Founded in Silicon Valley in 1984 and headquartered in San Jose, California, U.S.A.; Dublin, Ireland; Singapore; and Tokyo, Japan, the company has corporate offices throughout North America, Asia and Europe.[4]

The programmable logic device market has been led by Xilinx since the late 1990s. Over the years, Xilinx has fueled an aggressive expansion to India, Asia and Europe – regions Xilinx representatives have described as high-growth areas for the business.[5][6][7][8]

Xilinx's sales rose from $560 million in 1996 to almost $2 billion by 2007. The relatively new President and CEO Moshe Gavrielov – an EDA and ASIC industry veteran appointed in early 2008 – aims to bolster the company's revenue substantially during his tenure by providing more complete solutions that align FPGAs with software, IP cores, boards and kits to address focused target applications. The company aims to use this approach to capture greater market share from application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) and application-specific standard products (ASSPs).[9][10][11]




Early Days

Xilinx was founded in 1984 by two semiconductor engineers, Ross Freeman and Bernard Vonderschmitt, who were both working for integrated circuit and solid-state device manufacturer Zilog Corp.[4][12]

While working for Zilog, Freeman wanted to create chips that acted like a blank tape, allowing users to program the technology themselves. At the time, the concept was paradigm-changing.[12] "The concept required lots of transistors and, at that time, transistors were considered extremely precious – people thought that Ross's idea was pretty far out," said Xilinx Fellow Bill Carter, who when hired in 1984 as the first IC designer was the company's eighth employee.[12]

Big semiconductor manufacturers were enjoying strong profits by producing massive volumes of generic circuits.[4] Designing and manufacturing dozens of different circuits for specific markets offered lower profit margins and required greater manufacturing complexity.[4] What became known as the FPGA would allow circuits produced in quantity to be tailored by individual market segments.

Freeman was unable to convince Zilog to invest in creating the FPGA to chase what – at the time – was only a $100 million market.[4] Freeman left Zilog and teamed up with his 60-year-old ex-colleague Bernard Vonderschmitt to raise millions in venture funding to design the first commercially viable FPGA.[4] The company was incorporated in 1984 and began selling its first product by 1985.[4]

By late 1987, the company had raised more than $18 million in venture capital (worth approximately $33 million by today's standards) and was generating revenues at an annualized rate of nearly $14 million.[4][13]

Growth and Successes

As demand for programmable logic continued to grow, so did Xilinx's revenue and profit.[4]

From 1988 to 1990, the company's revenue nearly doubled each year from $30 million to $50 million to $100 million.[4] During this time period, funding provider Monolithic Memories Inc. (MMI) was purchased by Xilinx competitor AMD.[4] As a result of the AMD acquisition, Xilinx dissolved the deal with MMI and went public on the NASDAQ in 1989.[4] The company also moved to a 144,000-square-foot plant in San Jose, California in order to keep pace with demand from companies like HP, Apple Inc., IBM and Sun Microsystems who were buying large quantities from the fledgling operation.[4]

After inventing the FPGA market, Xilinx competitors finally started to sprout up throughout the mid-1990s.[4] Despite competition, Xilinx continued to grow sales to $135 million in 1991, $178 million in 1992 and $250 million in 1993.[4]

The company reached $550 million in revenue in 1995, only one decade after having sold its very first product.[4]


Xilinx has been repeatedly recognized as one of Fortune's best places to work and as the "Most Respected Public Fabless Company" by the Global Semiconductor Alliance.[14][15]

The company's products have been recognized by EE Times, EDN and others for innovation and market impact.[16][17][18]

The company has expanded its product portfolio substantially since its founding, now selling a broad range of FPGAs, complex programmable logic devices (CPLD), design tools, intellectual property and reference designs.[1] Xilinx also has a global services and training program.[1]

The organization's most popular product lines (see Current Family Lines) are the Spartan, Virtex and EasyPath series, each including configurations and models optimized for different applications.


Xilinx designs, develops and markets programmable logic products including integrated circuits (ICs), software design tools, predefined system functions delivered as intellectual property (IP) cores, design services, customer training, field engineering and technical support.[1] Xilinx sells both FPGAs and CPLDs programmable logic devices for electronic equipment manufacturers in end markets such as communications, industrial, consumer, automotive and data processing.[19][20][21][22][23][24][25]

Xilinx's FPGAs have even been used for the ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) at the CERN European laboratory on the French-Swiss border to map and disentangle the trajectories of thousands of subatomic particles.[26]

The Virtex-II Pro, Virtex-4, Virtex-5, and Virtex-6 FPGA families are particularly focused on system-on-chip (SoC) designers because they include up to two embedded IBM PowerPC cores.[27][28][29]

They can run a regular embedded OS (such as Linux or vxWorks) and they can implement processor peripherals in programmable logic.[1]

Xilinx's IP cores include IP for simple functions (BCD encoders, counters, etc.), for domain specific cores (digital signal processing, FFT and FIR cores) to complex systems (multi-gigabit networking cores, MicroBlaze soft microprocessor, and the compact Picoblaze microcontroller).[1] Xilinx also creates custom cores for a fee.

The ISE Design Suite is the central electronic design automation (EDA) product family sold by Xilinx. The ISE Design Suite features include design entry and synthesis supporting Verilog or VHDL, place-and-route (PAR), completed verification and debug using ChipScope Pro tools, and creation of the bit files that are used to configure the chip.[1]

Xilinx's Embedded Developer's Kit (EDK) supports the embedded PowerPC 405 and 440 cores (in Virtex-II Pro and some Virtex-4 and -5 chips) and the Microblaze core. Xilinx's System Generator for DSP implements DSP designs on Xilinx FPGAs. A freeware version of its EDA software called ISE WebPACK is used with some of its non-high-performance chips. Xilinx is the only (as of 2007) FPGA vendor to distribute a native Linux freeware synthesis toolchain.

There is a book called Programmable Logic Design Quick Start Hand Book that can be downloaded free of charge that gives an introduction to the Xilinx design flow and Xilinx programmable logic devices.[30]

Xilinx San Jose HQ Building at 2100 Logic Drive

Current family lines

Xilinx has two main FPGA families: the high-performance Virtex series and the high-volume Spartan series, with a cheaper EasyPath option for ramping to volume production. It also manufactures two CPLD lines, the CoolRunner and the 9500 series. Each model series has been released in multiple generations since its launch.

The latest Virtex-6 and Spartan-6 FPGA families are said to consume 50 percent less power, cost 20 percent less, and have up to twice the logic capacity of previous generations of FPGAs.[28][31][32]

Spartan Family

The Spartan series targets applications with a low-power footprint, extreme cost sensitivity and high-volume; e.g. displays, set-top boxes, wireless routers and other applications.[33]

The Spartan-6 family is built on a 45-nanometer (nm), 9-metal layer, dual-oxide process technology.[31][34] The Spartan-6 was marketed in 2009 as a low-cost solution for automotive, wireless communications, flat-panel display and video surveillance applications.[34]

The Spartan-3A consumes 70-90% less power in suspend mode and 40-50% less for static power compared to standard devices.[33][35] Also, the integration of dedicated DSP circuitry in the Spartan series has inherent power advantages of approximately 25% over competing low-power FPGAs.[35]

Virtex Family

A Xilinx Virtex-6 FPGA

The Virtex series of FPGAs have integrated features such as wired and wireless infrastructure equipment, advanced medical equipment, test and measurement, and defense systems. In addition to FPGA logic, the Virtex series includes embedded fixed function hardware for commonly used functions such as multipliers, memories, serial transceivers and microprocessor cores.

The Virtex-6 family is built on a 40-nm process for compute-intensive electronic systems, and the company claims it consumes 15 percent less power and has 15 percent improved performance over competing 40 nm FPGAs.[36]

Older-generation devices such as the Virtex, Virtex-II and Virtex-II Pro are also still available, although their functionality is largely superseded by the Virtex-4 and -5 FPGA families.

The Virtex-II Pro family was the first to combine PowerPC embedded technology (including single and multiple PowerPC 405 processor cores) and integrated serial transceivers (up to 3.125 Gbit/s in Virtex-II Pro and up to 10.3125 in Virtex-II Pro X).[37]

The Virtex-4 series was introduced in 2004 and was manufactured on a 1.2V, 90-nm, triple-oxide process technology. The Virtex-4 FPGAs introduced the new Advanced Silicon Modular Block (ASMBL) architecture, and consists of three product families: logic-focused design (LX), embedded processing and connectivity (FX), and digital signal processing (SX).[28]

The Virtex-5 series was introduced in 2006. With it, Xilinx moved from its traditional four-input LUT design to six-input LUTs. It is a 65-nm design fabricated in 1.0V, triple-oxide process technology.

The Virtex-5 LX and the LXT are also intended for logic-intensive applications, and the Virtex-5 SXT is for DSP applications.[38] The Virtex-5 FXT has been described by Xilinx as the "ultimate system integration platform" designed for wired and wireless communications, audio/video broadcast equipment, military, aerospace, and industrial systems.[39] The Virtex-5 TXT family includes up to 48 6.5 Gbit/s serial transceivers and is the industries first programmable 100G bridging solution.


EasyPath allows Xilinx customers to replace FPGAs with carbon-copy non-reprogrammable devices to reduce costs by 30-70% for designs ramping to higher volume production.[40] Because EasyPath devices are identical to the FPGAs that customers are already using, the parts can be produced faster and more reliably from the time they are ordered compared to similar competing programs.[40]

A 12-week time is guaranteed from receiving the design to mass production, and no redesign or re-qualification are required by the customer. In addition, customers are free to return from the non-programmable EasyPath FPGA production to original programmable Virtex FPGA production if the need for design changes arises.

Corporate strategy and culture

Xilinx's current CEO Moshe Gavrielov

Xilinx CEO Gavrielov plans to grow the company by providing more complete solutions to Xilinx customers that combine FPGA technology with IP cores, EDA tools and boards and kits to take a share of the ASIC and ASSP markets.[41] As of 2009, the cost of entry for an ASIC design is growing out of the price range for many applications, which makes FPGAs – which require much less development – a more viable option.[41]

Fortune "100 Best Places to Work"

Xilinx joined the Fortune ranks of the "100 Best Companies to Work For" in 2001 as No. 14, rose to No. 6 in 2002 and rose again to No. 4 in 2003.

Origin of Company Name

Having tried to register a number of company names which were more conventional and had been rejected because they were already taken, the founders decided to deliberately create an unusual name in order to ensure that the name was accepted. Xilinx Fellow Carter said that the name Xilinx was chosen because "The 'X's at each end represent programmable logic blocks. The "linx" represents programmable links that connect the logic blocks together."[12]

Ross Freeman

Ross Freeman, credited with the invention of the FPGA, was inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame in 2009, more than 20 years after the invention of the FPGA.[42] Starting in 1992, Xilinx has had an annual tradition of awarding a company employee with the Ross Freeman Award for Technical Innovation in Freeman's memory. Award honorees are based on nominations for innovations that resulted in significant tangible benefit to the company. Finalists are chosen by a committee and winners are selected based on a vote.[42]


During the "tech boom years," competitor Altera was the market leader. By 1999, the companies were almost tied in revenue and, by 2005, Xilinx had achieved a substantial lead.[3][43] Today, Xilinx customers represent just over half of the entire programmable logic market, at 51%.[1][2][43] Altera is Xilinx's strongest competitor with 34% of the market. Other key players in this market are Actel and Lattice Semiconductor.


In addition to their direct sales representatives, Xilinx has a host of distributors including Avnet, Nu Horizons, Digikey, Excelpoint International, CoreEL Technologies and EMPA Elektronik.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Company Website
  2. ^ a b Jonathan Cassell, iSuppli. "A Forgettable Year for Memory Chip Makers: iSuppli releases preliminary 2008 semiconductor rankings." December 1, 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2009.
  3. ^ a b John Edwards, EDN. "No room for Second Place." June 1, 2006. Retrieved January 15, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Funding Universe. "Xilinx, Inc." Retrieved January 15, 2009.
  5. ^ Company Release. "Xilinx Underscores Commitment to China." November 1, 2006. Retrieved January 15, 2009.
  6. ^ EE Times Asia. "Xilinx investing $40 million in Singapore operations." November 16, 2005. Retrieved January 15, 2009.
  7. ^ Pradeep Chakraborty. "India a high growth area for Xilinx." August 8, 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2009.
  8. ^ EDB Singapore. "Xilinx, Inc. strengthens presence in Singapore to stay ahead of competition." December 1, 2007. Retrieved January 15, 2009.
  9. ^ Lou Sosa, Electronic Design. "PLDs Present The Key To Xilinx's Success." June 12, 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  10. ^ Mike Santarini, EDN. "Congratulations on the Xilinx CEO gig, Moshe!." January 8, 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  11. ^ Ron Wilson, EDN. "Moshe Gavrielov Looks into the Future of Xilinx and the FPGA Industry." January 7, 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  12. ^ a b c d Company History
  13. ^ The Inflation Calculator. Retrieved January 15, 2009.
  14. ^ Company Release. "Xilinx Named Most Respected Public Semiconductor Company by Global Semiconductor Alliance (GSA)." December 15, 2008. Retrieved January 16, 2009.
  15. ^ Embedded Star. "Xilinx Among 100 Best Companies To Work For for 4th Straight Year." January 12, 2004. Retrieved January 16, 2009.
  16. ^ Company Release. "Xilinx Virtex-5 65nm FPGA & Virtex-4 Reference Design Named Finalists in EE Times ACE Award Competition." March 4, 2008. Retrieved January 16, 2009.
  17. ^ Company Release. "Xilinx Spartan-3AN FPGA Named to EDN's Hot 100 Products of 2007." January 19, 2008. Retrieved January 16, 2009.
  18. ^ Company Release. "Xilinx ISE Software Wins Electronic Design Magazine's Best of 2007 EDA/FPGA Tool Award." January 16, 2008. Retrieved January 16, 2009.
  19. ^ Xcell Journal, "Building Automotive Driver Assistance System Algorithms with Xilinx FPGA platforms." October, 2008. Retrieved January 28, 2009.
  20. ^ Xcell Journal, "Taking Designs to New Heights with Space-Grade Virtex-4QV FPGAs." July, 2008. Retrieved January 28, 2009.
  21. ^ Xcell Journal, "A Flexible Platform for Satellite-Based High-Performance Computing". January 2009 p 22. Retrieved January 28, 2009.
  22. ^ Xcell Journal, "Virtex-5 Powers Reconfigurable Rugged PC." January 2009 p28. Retrieved January 28, 2009.
  23. ^ Xcell Journal, "Exploring and Prototyping Designs for Biomedical Applications." July 2008. Retrieved January 28, 2009.
  24. ^ Xcell Journal, "Security Video Analytics on Xilinx Spartan-3A DSP." October 2008. Retrieved January 28, 2009.
  25. ^ Xcell Journal, "A/V Monitoring System Rides Virtex-5." October 2008. Retrieved January 28, 2009.
  26. ^ Xcell Journal, "CERN Scientists Use Virtex-4 FPGAs for Big Bang Research." July 2008. Retrieved January 28, 2009.
  27. ^ Virtex-II Pro Datasheet
  28. ^ a b c Virtex-4 Family Overview
  29. ^ Richard Wilson,, "Xilinx repositions FPGAs with SoC move." February 2, 2009. Retrieved on February 2, 2009.
  30. ^ Programmable Logic Quick Start Hand Book by Karen Parnell and Nick Mehta Programmable Logic Design Quick Start Hand Book
  31. ^ a b Peter Clarke, EE Times, "Xilinx launches Spartan-6, Virtex-6 FPGAs." February 2, 2009. Retrieved February 2, 2009
  32. ^ Ron Wilson, EDN, "Xilinx FPGA introductions hint at new realities." February 2, 2009. Retrieved on February 2, 2009.
  33. ^ a b Daniel Harris, Electronic Design. "If Only the Original Spartans Could Have Thrived On So Little Power." February 27, 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  34. ^ a b Company Release. "The low-cost Spartan-6 FPGA family delivers an optimal balance of low risk, low cost, low power, and high performance." February 2, 2009.
  35. ^ a b Clive Maxfield, Programmable Logic DesignLine. "Greater power efficiency for Xilinx high-performance Spartan-3A DSP FPGAs." July 23, 2007. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  36. ^ Company Release. "New Xilinx Virtex-6 FPGA Family Designed to Satisfy Insatiable Demand for Higher Bandwidth and Lower Power Systems." February 2, 2009. Retrieved February 2, 2009.
  37. ^ Design & Reuse. "Insight Develops the First Virtex-II Pro LC Development Kit Priced Under $200." March 10, 2004. Retrieved January 28, 2009.
  38. ^ DSP DesignLine. "Analysis: Xilinx debuts Virtex-5 FXT, expands SXT." June 13, 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  39. ^ Colin Holland, EE Times. "Xilinx completes Virtex-5 line-up, adds-in PowerPC 440 processors." April 1, 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  40. ^ a b Kevin Morris, FPGA Journal. "Not Bad Die: Xilinx EasyPath Explained." May 27, 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  41. ^ a b "Q5 interview - Moshe Gavrielov, Xilinx." July 30, 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  42. ^ a b Press Release, "Xilinx Co-Founder Ross Freeman Honored as 2009 National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee for Invention of FPGA." February 11, 2009. Retrieved February 11, 2009.
  43. ^ a b Xilinx Fact Sheet

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