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Why are development boards cheaper than chips? How do you get chips for less than you can buy boards for?

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Visitor
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎05-05-2017

Why are development boards cheaper than chips? How do you get chips for less than you can buy boards for?

I'm not sure if this is the right sub-forum; and it's more of a rant out of pure frustration. I've been trying to get pricing now for over a month and it seems to be impossible. I'm trying to place a 6 figure order and it seems like xilinx just doesn't want my business?

 

I can't for the life of me figure out how xilinx sales operates or what they're thinking internally. They'll sell you a development board for 50% less than they'll sell you the chips for. For something like an accelerator (a good example is the KCU1500 board), the chips alone are more than double the price of the board itself in large quantities.

 

It's even more difficult to determine which device is the most cost effective for us to buy. With our designs we can iterate multiple instances (which is desirable) for larger chips, and less instances with smaller chips. The only thing we care about is cost effectiveness, getting the best price for the output. This is nearly impossible to accomplish because it takes weeks to get a quote for a single part; and there are a dozen different packages for the half dozen different parts available for each product line for each tech level!

 

I've broken down to looking for engineering samples as it seems like it will be a cold day in hell before I ever get reasonable pricing on production parts. But, ES QTY is limited and difficult or impossible to get availability details for. I found a $225 XCVU190 on various sites, but turns out, that's just a 'welding test chip'. I wouldn't know it, because Xilinx has hidden all the 20nm and 16nm data / errata files. (I've been waiting almost 2 weeks just to get access to the early access lounge)

 

I've seen past discussions dating back to 2000 bringing this up. I can't help but think that with the age we live in that Xilinx is doing themselves a disservice by continuing with archaic sales practices. It feels like I'm dealing with a used car salesman that when I ask the question 'How much is it?' they ask back 'How much do you have?'. If they really wanted to get into cloud computing (which seems to be the case with 6+ companies globally now offering FPGA accelerated computing instances); they should change their sales practices. We're currently utilizing over 100x XCVU9P chips on AWS. We want our own FPGA in our own racks.

 

Is this just because there are only 2 companies offering this product? They just bilk everyone for what they can get out of them? I can't help but think that if the Xilinx FPGAs were as cheap as Intel PC chips that there would be a FPGA in nearly everything. Almost everyone, anywhere, could get a decent speed increase by accelerating specific tasks. I've even considered using them to accelerate our MySQL clusters. But, not at these insane pricings. There's no way amazon, baidu, etc are paying these prices for chips. Their rates are not high enough; they typically amortize hardware over 6 to 12 months. Based on that, I'd guess that amazon is paying around $5000 per XCVU9P. I'd consider that a fair price and I'd pay that.

 

It's not like FPGA are more complicated than Intel server CPUs. They only difference is in the volume of product they move. And, Xilinx doesn't want to move product. If they did, they would tell people how much their products cost, what the part availability looks like, and how to buy them.

 

I think I've finally found a decent pricing chip with the XC7V2000T CES9937. But it'll be another week before I find out if I can even get the chip. In the meantime I guess I'll just sit here and twiddle my thumbs with Xilinx frustration and dream of the day when I'll be able to get work done.

 

I had hopes that Intel would reverse these practices with their purchase of altera. But it seems they just wanted in on the duopoloy; not to bring any sort of rational practice to the market.

 

</rant>

 

tl;dr Xilinx is a backward archaic company that needs to be completely revamped for the 21st century. They charge less for chips on boards than they do for chips.

 

Visitor
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎05-05-2017

Re: Why are development boards cheaper than chips? How do you get chips for less than you can buy boards for?

 

Well, just got a reply from the Xilinx agent in China. Kudos for working at 10PM. But, +2 more days added to the wait time because they need to come see the office. Why? Probably so they can gauge us to see how much they can overcharge us... aka 'how much you got?'. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt and say they're visiting the office because they're worried we're going to sell these FPGA to north korea or iran. Why would visiting our office help you determine if we're going to do that? Are your agents trained to look for Iranians or North Koreans hiding in the closets?

 

Can you imagine what the world would look like if Intel went to everyone's office and home before allowing them to purchase PC and Server chips?

Explorer
Posts: 155
Registered: ‎04-13-2015

Re: Why are development boards cheaper than chips? How do you get chips for less than you can buy boards for?

This is called the Razor / Razorblade business model.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Razor_and_blades_model

 

Scholar
Posts: 1,815
Registered: ‎04-26-2015

Re: Why are development boards cheaper than chips? How do you get chips for less than you can buy boards for?

We buy SoMs from third-party suppliers rather than dealing with Xilinx directly; it drastically simplifies pricing (because these suppliers have price lists) and, as you've found, a complete system on a module (with all the tricky PCB, power supply, and RAM taken care of) is often a comparable price to just buying the bare chip from Digikey or Avnet. Also, these suppliers are keen to actually sell us some hardware.

 

While there are no SoMs available with the Virtex UltraScale+ fitted, I wonder whether it would be worth your while to approach one of the SoM suppliers and say "look, if you do a module with an XCVU9P on it and you can sell it for under <whatever price>, we'll buy $500,000 worth of them". Then they can argue with Xilinx over pricing for the bare FPGAs - something which they presumably have experience with.

Moderator
Posts: 2,019
Registered: ‎08-01-2012

Re: Why are development boards cheaper than chips? How do you get chips for less than you can buy boards for?

For pricing and sales related queries I would recommend you here is to talk to your nearest local DFAE/FAE. They would be a right person to guide you on this. You can get contact details of Xilinx sales representatives from the following link https://www.xilinx.com/about/contact/sales-reps.html. You can get contact details of Xilinx authorized distributers from the following link https://www.xilinx.com/about/contact/authorized-distributors.html

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Visitor
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎05-05-2017

Re: Why are development boards cheaper than chips? How do you get chips for less than you can buy boards for?

 

We had to go up to 7 figures to get decent pricing. Even now though, it's not possible to get anything more than budgetary pricing for parts until we select the device we want. We're looking at 3 possible parts and are only interested in whichever is most cost effective. I asked the DFAE to put together 3 proposals so we could get firm pricing on all 3 parts. They said no, it's not possible. We have to select the part first. Apparently I'm supposed to gamble with millions and hope that I pick the one that's most cost effective.

 

Frustration abounds.