Working for my trend tracking blog called ‘Experiencing the Cloud’ I recognized an absolutely shocking trend in early September, 2012 that here is a $99 Android 4.0.3 7” IPS tablet with an Allwinner SoC capable of 2160p Quad HD and built-in HDMI–another inflection point, from China again. As I worked through that it was also necessary to explore The future of the semiconductor IP ecosystem in order to understand of what is going behind. This whole process lead to this separate blog the essence of which you can understand by reading the About page.
You can start from that or from the two large compiled collections on the ‘Experiencing the Cloud’. For those who will start from the About page I will include here a couple of notable excerpts from the large collection posts from ‘Experiencing the Cloud’:
From $99 Android 4.0.3 7” IPS tablet with an Allwinner SoC capable of 2160p Quad HD and built-in HDMI–another inflection point, from China again
It is first time that we can see globally that China is on a different, significantly more effective price/performance/functionality trajectory of its own than anybody else. Even the latest challengers to the already fading Wintel empire will be affected by this. We should therefore understand:
- The new challenge
- A proper recollection of what happened to Intel’s memory business
- The market and industry situation reflecting this new inflection point
- The Allwinner advantage 全志
- The wireless display and 2160p (“Quad HD”/4K) outlook
- Are the established client device players recognizing this strategic inflection point or not?
- Possible further hardware advances sustaining this new trajectory
- The Nufront challenge coming from inside
Company Overview of AllWinner Technology Co., Ltd.
AllWinner Technology Co., Ltd. engages in mixed-mode SOC technology research and VLSI design. The company’s products are used in high-definition television and digital photo frame markets. It also provides support services. The company was founded in 2007 and is based in Zhuhai [Guangdong province], China.
From: Zhuhai sez daily: Gan Lin investigated in high-tech zones “two little two two high” enterprise [Allwinner press release, June 10, 2010]
… Gan Lin, Party Secretary of Zhuhai city … accompanied by director of the CMC Qiu Shi, successively investigated the Kingsoft Park (Jinshan Software Park) project site, Xuan Garment Co., Ltd. Design Center, BOXlight (Po Wright) Medical Technology Inc., Tin Shui Power Technology Limited, Allwinner Technology Co., Ltd. and Bioenergy Limited. …
Zhuhai Allwinner Technology Limited is committed to becoming a leader of application requirements in the area of key technologies for HD multimedia and communication networks, radio and television networks, and the Internet “triple play”; specializes in low power VLSI design capacity of independent research and development of core technologies, has completely independent intellectual property rights. According to the General Manager [Chairman and CEO] of the company, Zhang Jianhui (张建辉), the Allwinner company was established in 2007. In the first two years to April 2009, the company had been working hard on technology R & D and did not earn a penny, then launched two categories for the introduction of a series of nine full HD network integrated smardescriptiont chips in order to become one of the leading manufacturer of ultra-large-scale system-on-chip and embedded software technology.
The roots of the Allwinner Technology:
May I ask [about] Zhuhai [珠海] Victory Technology [全胜 科技] – How can I like it?[http://laoyaoba.com in Chinese, Oct 23, 2010]
Looking for a job, this company has come to our school, a little want to go, but I don’t know how on Earth is this company, [since there is] almost no information on the Internet, looking for an insider look, appreciate it!
… The entrepreneurial team of Zhao Guangmin [赵广民先]’s [Zhuhai] Actions Semiconductor Co., Ltd. was brought over after Zhao’s unfortunate, untimely death. The Zhang Jianhui[张建辉]-led team, however, is still very strong in the Chinese semiconductor industry. It began to grab the PMP [Personal Media Player >>> MP3 etc.] market share last year, and it is estimated that [its] revenue this year should be around $ 30 million ….
… [Till] June 2005 Zhao Guangmin has been Actions’ general manager, [then] since June
to becomevice president, and in November the company officially listed [that] Zhao Guangmin had [been] transformed into a vice chairman. … In fact, although Zhao Guangmin since 1993 aswas general manager of Zhuhai Actions, but he hashad no control of the company, the company hashad been in a firm grip on the hands of equity investment in Taiwan.
Here is the Commemorate [what] Zhao insisted: a win-win situation, team together and do things realistic [Aug 24, 2007] by his deputy and effective successor in charge of his new Victory Microelectronics Co., Ltd. (which became today’s Allwinner), Zhang Jianhui:
Zhao went away from us, the circle of friends chatted about Zhao, and so far we are still unable to accept that this is a fact. Remembered Zhao, in addition to in the legendary entrepreneurial experience at Actions, we talk about the most, is the insistence of Zhao and low-key.
Speaking of the insistence of old Zhao, when Zhao won the Zhuhai Special Economic Person of the Year in 2004, in an interview he said: “As long as you choose the right direction, be sure to persist in walking, did not insist on was not successful.” It is this insistence on belief and perseverance of action which created Zhao’s unusual success story.
First, Zhao insisted on the concept of win-win, through the development of core IC products to add value for the customer, and industry chain downstream supporting enterprise vertical and horizontal, building win-win business model among enterprises, resulting in overall lead between the company and the customer.
Zhao served as general manager of Actions by virtue of more than 10 years accumulated of IC design and enterprise operating management experience. He led there a well-trained professional operating team to share common goals, to carry out efforts with hard work, to get global semiconductor industry attention via achievements. This made Actions from an unknown small company, in just a few years, China IC design industry’s first to become a globally known enterprise. The MP3 multimedia master chip R & D accounted for more than 50% of the world market share. This led to billions of dollars via the quick formation of the MP3 industry chain in China, prompting mainland China to become world’s major export base of MP3 which has brought tremendous development and benefits to the consumer electronics industry [here].
This was for the first time as a mainland China IC design company established itself in the field of global consumer electronics products, mastered and mass provided the core technology products with international advanced level. Actions’ operating income grew significantly from a few million yuan in 2002 to 1.2 billion yuan in 2005, [thus] creating rapid growth of more than 100 times for the Actions Semiconductor in three years only, and [then] eventually prompting the success of Actions to be listed on NASDAQ.
Second, Zhao insisted on the need to uphold the integrity of the fundamental values [which] can be established between the team and the customer, [on the] long term sustainable growth of business culture, [that] the strength of the team is always greater than the power of any individual.
In the early venture days of Actions Zhao personally wrote a column for the internal publications, talked about the issues of development ideas and the reform of corporate culture, and also to encourage other executives to write articles for publication. Fixed each Wednesday [?his?] commuting leadership talked about the exchange of business issues, to develop common thinking habits and language of communication – because every time before this would open, the kitchen will cook a pot of noodles as participants of dinner, affectionately called “noodles will”.
This will sometimes be open until two o’clock at night, and the truth is argued more and more out; companies and departments use the monthly regular meeting with employees face-to-face communication. After a year passed, not only everyone has made great progress, but he also formed a fully functional teamwork of high degree of homogeneity and quality, great combat effectiveness of entrepreneurial backbone of the team, and subsequently laid a very good foundation to the success of the company.
Third, Zhao insisted on doing anything seriously, down-to-earth. He used to say that a 99.99% working IC is still not working. Design paradoxes are in place, it is where the BUG. In 1995 I and old Zhao did cooperative research and development projects for the first time. I was responsible for the system design, Zhao for the circuit design. There was no RTL coding method as now, the circuit was built by human hand structures. Zhao’s design adhered to repeated scrutiny and carefully optimized design logic based on clear, simple drawing. Sometimes he explained to me where is the circuit of the collar, which is the heart of the circuit and the limbs, old Zhao could meander, and the favorite circuit design is input ready.
It is quite unfortunate that China’s IC design industry has lost an outstanding leader, and friends lost an honest, down-to-earth best friend. However, true to Zhao’s spirit, I believe in increasing prosperity and burgeoning growth of Chinese IC design, offering useful lessons and inspirations, and I believe this will also correspond to Zhao’s heartfelt wishes and expectations.
Mr. Zhao Guangmin may rest [in peace] .
Author: Zhang Jianhui, Victory Microelectronics [全胜] Co., Ltd. (Zhuhai), general manager, for the friends and colleagues of Zhao Guangmin years
Allwinner Technology and ARM working together to get to market quicker [ARM’s Multimedia blog, June 19, 2012 – in Chinese on Oct 4, 2012]
The dynamics of the mobile device industry can be seen in the rise of tablets and in particular the growth in Android based tablets. This new form factor has grown to an expected 100M shipping volume in 2012 with this being projected to exceed 200M by 2016 – when Android tablet shipments is expected to be over 50% (Source: IDC). This new form factor and pace of change have opened up opportunities for new companies to offer specific System on Chip (SoC) businesses a chance to address this market. Allwinner Technology Co., Ltd.is one of these. Over the last 12 months Allwinner Technology has become one of the major China Android tablet SoC chip vendors, with many of the Android tablet OEM system makers adopting our chip and system solution. A key
industry analyst in China expects 40M Android tablets to ship in the China grey market in 2012, and it is expected that 60% of the share will be from Allwinner Technology.
This rapid time to market has been achievable through the close working relationship and usage of ARM Intellectual Property (IP). Allwinner Technology uses a combination of the ARM CortexTM-A8 and ARM MaliTM-400 MP. This combination enables Allwinner Technology to balance the required performance needs for tablet applications with the power consumption boundaries of a mobile device. By working with ARM for both CPU and GPU elements Allwinner Technology have been able to maximize the benefits of both high performance with low power consumption that ARMs years of knowledge in the mobile device market brings to new entrants to the market.
Allwinner Technology has gone from the licensing [in April 2011] of the Mali-400 to production silicon in 7 months . This speed of execution has beenenabled by the close linkage between the CPU and GPU from a design perspective, the RVDS [toolchain, the legacy solution for software development on older ARM processors replaced by the new ARM Development Studio 5, DS-5] and ARM DS-5TM toolchain [comprises tools such as the best-in-class ARM C/C++ Compiler, a powerful Linux/Android™/RTOS-aware debugger, the ARM Streamline™ system-wide performance analyzer and real-time system model simulators, all conveniently packaged in a user friendly integrated development environment (IDE) based on the Eclipse] and the out-the-box quality software drivers which are all supported by localised support teams. All these elements combined have enabled Allwinner Technology to move swifter and in an agile way to address the needs of this market and we look forward to working with ARM going forward.
Guest Partner Blogger:
Jack Lee, CMO, Allwinner Technology Co., Ltd.
Competitive SoCs from Chinese vendors that were available in March’12 or came soon after March’12:
Amlogic 8726-MX (dual core), 8726-M3; Rockchip RK3066(dual core), RK2918
(A10 $7, A13 $5)
It is quite notable that neither on the product page nor in this datasheet Allwinner is giving further information about their video engine. Even in the functional block diagram of the datasheet the video engine (VE) is simply put into a central box with Cortex-A8 and the Mali GPU:
The only available information is the CedarX wiki page [July 14 – Sept 16, 2012] on linux-sunxi wiki:
CedarX is Allwinner’s multimedia decoding technology. It is composed of several parts, including:
- A hardware video decoding unit
- Proprietary libraries to communicate with the hardware unit
- Glue code to use those libraries on an actual system with video playback capabilities (e.g. Android)
Efficient use of system resources when decoding multimedia.
Allows small ARM systems to playback high resolution/bitrate multimedia content, which wouldn’t be possible using software-only decoding.
The proprietary libraries have no clear usage license.
The android glue code is implemented as a “media player” (parallel to stagefright) instead of as OMX components.
This media player has limitations when it comes to playing back content pointed to by Android URIs and some web-based content.
There is no glue code for any other multimedia frameworks on GNU/Linux systems. The use of OMX would’ve rendered this a non-issue, with existing projects like GstOpenMAX.
CedarXWrapper as a LD_PRELOADed wrapper to help understanding the proprietary libraries.
CedarXPlayerTest as a basic player to use when testing.
The Allwinner A10 based tablets came to the global market from quite a number of vendors as shown by the following table (=50) compiled from two related threads from SlateDroid.com (note that global arrival of A10-based product started in Jan’12):
Comprehensive List of Allwinner
A1X/A10 devices on SlateDroid.com, as of April 18, 2012 (first version: Feb 26, 2012)
A10 Tablets with less than 1GB memory („1st generation”):
Ainol: Novo 7 Advanced, Novo 7 Advanced II
OEM Novo 7 Advanced
Allview AllDro Speed
Audemars Piguet PC741 (w/ bluetooth)
Bmorn: V9 plus, V11
Eken: MB1001, T01A, t10a
Eneoze 7 inch or 10 inch
ICOO: D70W, D90W
LY-F1 (Netpad A10, TPGA-7AWN, A710)
Leoxsys Leopad i7-1500
Onda: VX610W, Vi20W, Vi10 deluxe edition, Vi20W deluxe (the original Vi20W is RK2918-based), Vi30W deluxe, Vx610w, VX580W Deluxe Edition (5” tablet)
Ployer: Momo8 (8″ screen 800×600), Momo9 (C, Enhanced, etc), Momo15 (10” screen)
Sanei N70 N71 N72 N73 N80 N81 (N7x is 7” and N8x is 8”)
Sigotech V700 (resistive touch)
Skypad Alpha 2
Teclast: P76 Resistive, P76ti
WoPad A7 (upcoming)
„2nd generation” A10 tablets (with 1 GB or more):
Ainol: Novo Elf, Novo Aurora
Bmorn V11 Extreme
Gemei: G9, Gemei G2
Ployer Momo11 Bird
Onda: Vi40 (8g, 16g, 32g/ 10” screen), Vi10 elite, 1GB Ram, 8 GB Flash, 1024×600 LCD
Teclast: P85 (8″ screen), A10
Later/OTHER devices (not verified, just put on the thread, THOSE WITH LINKS are from the Adding new Allwinner A10 CPU Devices THREAD [Jan 19-Sept 17, 2012]):
iNote: V4, A8, A8-2, A-8-3
Onda Vi40 Flagship
Yarvik Xerios TAB464
Note that there were only couple of Chinese vendors with multiple Allwinner A10-based tablet offerings, namely: Ainol, Ampe, Bmorn, Eken, Gemei, ICOO, iNote, Onda, Ployer, Sanei, Teclast (i.e. just 11 out of 50).
As far as the 2160p (“Quad HD” or 4K) technology is concerned, which is already on our footsteps, I would first recommend to watch the below demo video available on YouTube in QUAD HD resolution. You should “simply” select the “Original” quality in full screen viewing mode, and if your monitor has sufficient resolution than you could get the proper experience (do not forget that your Internet connection should be sufficiently fast in terms of guarranteed dowload speed as well). If not than correspondingly less:
IT005 QUAD HD 4K – Italy travel guide Bird watching [VOXLIBERTUM YouTube channel]
Birdwatching in 4K on the River Adda. Natural Reserve maintained by Pro loco Villa D’adda – Footage courtesy by http://www.iris32.com – This 4K video is posted in original QUAD HD resolution. It has been produced with RED 16×9 HD with 4096 x 2304 pixel resolution. The color grading was done with REDCINE PRO X. It was mastered in FCP 7 with 4444 PRORES and than downscaled to 3840 x 2160 (QUAD HD) in PRORES 422 (LT) to reduce the file size under 20 GB. All original sequences used in this video are available on http://www.iris32.com. Should you require the 4444 PRORES original for maximum quality, please go to the IRIS32 website and mail a request. I hope you enjoy this little piece of birdwatching on the River Adda. Copyright 2012 – Frederick von Sulle, VOXLIBERTUM
Then please watch another video which is showing what the leader in this TV technology, Toshiba was showing on the recent IFA 2012 fair in Berlin:
Toshiba 4K Quad-HD 3840×2160 TVs with CEVO Engine upscaling/processing from 55″ to 84″ [Charbax YouTube channel, Aug 30, 2012]
Toshiba is ramping up the production of their awesome Quad-HD screens, the 2D-only 55″ is awesome, but only for sale in Japan for now. But this year and the next, Toshiba is going to ramp up the manufacturing of these, I hope they lower the price of 55″ Quad-HD to sub-$2000 as soon as possible! The slideshows of 8 megapixel photos and 4K videos filmed with the Red camera videos look awesome on it!
The reporter (Nicolas Charbonnier alias Charbax) did an excellent job with this video, as well as the Toshiba guy showing him around. Even his English is very good and enjoyable. Note that from [02:10] and “Glassless 3D” is shown and explained quite extensively, then highly zoomable Google Maps in 3D etc. Charbonnier is doing during all this an excellent job zooming with camera so one can really grasp the 4K and 3D experience quite well even in a normal viewing environment of your monitor. THANKS!
December 13 Report:
– Intel’s next-gen SoC manufacturing process will be able to deliver the next Bay Trail Atom only for 2014 products (with higher end Haswell for H2 2013), and it is just a 26nm process in terminology used by the foundry industry not a 22nm one touted by Intel
The Truth About Intel [Mannerisms on Electronics Weekly, Dec 5, 2012]
So the war is on as per: IBM, Intel face off at 22 nm [EE Times, Dec 10, 2012]
Before that it was that Intel describes 22-nm SoC process, not chips [EE Times, Sept 13, 2012]
Reminders: Silicon Technology for 32 nm and Beyond System-on-Chip Products [IDF 2009 presentation by Mark Bohr, Sept 23, 2009]
So… Intel may speak about its “22 nm SoC process” but given the late entry of its 32nm SoC process Atom product (Cover Trail) it would be better to assume that with Windows 8 tablets based on that it will affect only the 2014 tablet market, not earlier. This is what the latest leaks are suggesting as well. Meanwhile expect a low-power Haswell ULT based tablet PC push in the H2 2013 as described already in my Intel Haswell: “Mobile computing is not limited to tiny, low-performing devices” [Nov 15 – Dec 11, 2012] post. As for the next year the real question is Can VIA Technologies save the mobile computing future of the x86 (x64) legacy platform? [this same blog of mine, Nov 23, 2012] For this watch what Allwinner vis-à-vis HTC on 2013 International CES [this same blog of mine, Dec 11, 2012] could bring in that respect, something much more than what is described in Allwinner A31 SoC is here with products and the A20 SoC is coming [USD 99 Allwinner blog of mine, Dec 10, 2012] or in $99 Android 4.0.3 7” IPS tablet with an Allwinner SoC capable of 2160p Quad HD and built-in HDMI–another inflection point, from China again [this same blog, Dec 3, 2012].
– end of life of planar transistor and need to move to FinFET, but meanwhile FD-SOI to the rescue
FinFETs or FD-SOI? [SemiMD (Semiconductor Manufacturing and Design), Dec 11, 2012]
…Semiconductor Manufacturing and Design talks with Paul Boudre, chief operating officer at Soitec, about FinFETs, industry inflection points, the end of life for planar transistors, bulk CMOS vs. SOI, the differences between fully depleted and partially depleted SOI, and the FD-SOI ecosystem.
– ARM Physical IP division via its upcoming IP is preparing with its foundry partners (TSMC, GLOBALFOUNDRIES and Samsung) an easier transition to FinFETSean O’Kane, Producer/Host ChipEstimate.TV John Heinlein, VP Marketing, Physical IP Division at ARM
ARM TechCon 2012 Executive Roundtable: Manufacturing [ARMflix YouTube channel, Nov 14, 2012]
Embedded in the beginning of this roundtable video there is a [4:19] minutes long Investing in FinFET Technology Leadership Presented by ARM [ARMflix YouTube channel, Nov 12, 2012] video in which Dr. Rob Aitken, R&D Fellow at ARM, discusses the need for new transistor technologies and how FinFET may be a solution. The embedded video is starting at [00:39] of the roundtable video. From this I will transcribe here the following part showing ARM’s commitment and strategy for FinFET in its Physical IP Division:
There are a number of other ARM specific information about its FinFET efforts in the September 27 report which is in the following major section. Now additional ones from its foundry partners:
Breathing New Life into the Foundry-Fabless Business Model [ARM’s SoC Design blog, Aug 21, 2012]
TSMC Accelerates finFET Efforts [SemiMD (Semiconductor Manufacturing and Design), Oct 16, 2012]
September 27 Report:
– TSMC’s View of the Semiconductor IP Ecosystem
To understand the semiconductor IP ecosystem one should first understand it via the IP related efforts of far the biggest and most influential foundry, TSMC (as their success most heavily depends on a vibrant and quality IP ecosystem):
ChipEstimate.com DAC 2012 IP Talks presenter Dan Kochpatcharin on TSMC OIP and IP Quality [chipestimate YouTube channel, June 26, 2012]Dan Kochpatcharin, Deputy Director, IP Portfolio Marketing, TSMC. IP Talks presenter with ChipEstimate.com at DAC 2012 in San Francisco. TSMC OIP (Open Innovation Platform alliance ecosystem) and IP Quality. For more information about TSMC , go to:http://www.chipestimate.com/tsmc/
There are 41 IP partners in the semiconductor IP specific TSMC IP alliance program of TSMC OIP (Open Innovation Platform alliance ecosystem) and also have 20-25 IP partners directly supported but not part of the IP alliance program.
Among those the winners of the 2011 TSMC IP Partner Award of Year were:
- Interface IP: Synopsys Inc. [US]
- Analog/Mixed Signal IP: Dolphin Integration SA [France]
- Foundation IP [such as basic standard cells, standard I/O, and memory-bit cells]:
ARM Ltd. [UK] [ARM Artisan® Physical IP such as: ARM® Artisan Standard Cell Libraries, ARM® Artisan Specialty I/O libraries, ARM® Artisan DDR Interface IP, ARM Artisan Embedded Memory Compilers etc. and Processor Optimization Packs (POPs)]
- Specialty Embedded Memory IP: eMemory Technology Inc. [Taiwan] for second year in a row
– Overall semiconductor IP market overview
The key players listed by the market researcher MarketsandMarkets (with ChipEstimate.com links wherever possible, where “Prime IP Partners” are highlighted in bold) are the following companies:
Gartner presented last year the following, revenue based Semiconductor IP Market view:
Source: Synopsis Investor Day 2011 presentation, referring to a Gartner, March 2011 report
So overall the market is quite mature, with well established and strong leaders already having the most of the business for themselves. The #1 ARM Holdings is also having a strong ecosystem of its own, which is providing opportunities for not less than 53 small silicon IP vendors outside the Top 10 as well. See: SoC IP [providers in ARM Connected Community Program].
I’ve edited a more descriptive list of that in PDF, which you can download from here. Below I’am providing an excerpt from that, with strongest players in ARM’s own ecosystem in the sense of relying on ARM’s Artisan Physical IP via the IPNet Partner Program (denoted by +) and/or TSCM IP Alliance Program (denoted by *):
– The CEVA case
A lot of Silicon IP vendors are highly focussed. Probably the most successful among them is CEVA Inc. (Israel, Choice IP Partner):
CEVA is also a best case for the trend determining the future of the semiconductor IP ecosystem, especially with the above “small print” example of a reusable LTE Advanced subsystem. More about the formation of such a trend you can find in the <<sticking with the “Goliath”>> section below.
– When sticking with the “Goliath”: ARM Holdings Plc
Then there are a number of vendors with an ecosystem of surrounding IP partners such as ARM Holdings Plc on the higher end (which we’ve already presented in the earlier, “Market Overview” section) and CAST Inc. on the lower one.
Let’s examine the future of the semiconductor IP ecosystem through the eyes of these two companies. What they can offer strategically to their customers? Why customers are selecting the smaller and much less influential offerings from CAST against the “industry behemoth” ARM? What does it mean for a customer sticking with one against the other?
Jack Browne, Vice President, Marketing, Sonics, Inc.
Designers defining the next generation SoCs are adding more cores in pursuit of the ever increasing user experience. Whether for pacesetting smart phones, WiFi routers, or personal medical devices, making all this IP work as intended in the SoC requires system IP. System IP includes the on-chip network, performance analysis tools, debug tools, power management and memory subsystems necessary for best in class SoCs. Whether used by the architect in the initial definition of the SoC or the layout engineer finalizing timing for place and route closure, system IP is critical to the design insuring that the capabilities of the SoC will meet the required end user experiences.
For complex SoCs over 100 IP blocks may be included in a design. Choices can be tough, with over a hundred IP vendors offering solutions, each with multiple products. The System IP eases the design burden by supporting both IP blocks and subsystems with the necessary broad range of interface protocols, widths, frequency domains and power domains.
System IP eases the challenges of maintaining a common software platform over multiple generations of SoC’s, built with varying IP cores and subsystems. Market research firm Semico, forecasts subsystem functions for computing, memory, video, communications, multimedia, security and system resource management. The increased abstraction from subsystems gives productivity benefit (leveraging use of commercial IP blocks) as well as differentiation through the integration of in-house IP blocks with standard industry IP blocks into reusable subsystems. A computing subsystemexample would be ARM’s big.LITTLE CPU clusters where ARM does most of the integration ahead of time with the designer doing final configuration of features and/or number of cores. Another example would be faster communication subsystems like LTE advanced subsystems [we have already shown CEVA’s LTE-A Ref.Architecture above as the best example for that]. By customizing a 4G LTE advanced subsystem solution with internal technology, SoC design teams can differentiate from standard IP blocks using their internal expertise while leveraging the shared R&D benefits of merchant 4G IP subsystems.
With the increasing cost of today’s SoCs, many are designed for multiple markets where not all of the functionality of the SoC is in use. Many also have multiple usage scenarios within a given market, e.g. music playback on our smartphone. With the importance of battery life, managing the power of a SoC, including the ability to power off unused blocks, gives the best battery life. Today’s 28nm SoCs are using dozens of power domains and even more clock domains to meet the performance and battery life requirements. By moving to system IP supporting hardware centric control of power transitions, end users will make more use of Dark Silicon (normally powered off) for better battery life as compared to interrupt centric software power management control.
When starting a new SoC design, your choice of system IP is a key early decision as you have now selected the on-chip network, performance analysis tools, debug tools, power management and memory subsystems available for your design. Making the right choice can provide a 2x benefit over other choices with regard to performance, power and cost, so make an informed choice.
Dr. John Heinlein, Vice President, Marketing, ARM Physical IP Division
… The IP ecosystem … is diverse and vibrant, with today’s IP providers offering many IP types, spanning a wide range of power, performance and area tradeoffs. As an example, at 45 and 40nm various industry databases listbetween 450-620 licensable IP blocks available. Furthermore, the latest IP developments at 45nm and 28nm include extensive power management capabilities, cost tradeoffs and implementation options that give designers choices for their chip. Only through this ecosystem diversity can we have the rich and competitive landscape to address the many market segments the industry serves.
… Major technology investments are occurring across the foundry space, with new leading-edge R&D investments in fundamental process technology being made. These investments span major companies like IBM, TSMC, Samsung, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, research consortia like IMEC and even new entrants like SuVolta, all of which are driving for aggressive technologies. Today, 32 and 28nm products are in production and many more ramping to production. Following that, there is a range of solutions already announced at 20nm that deliver the next node of planar bulk CMOS scaling. Furthermore, the industry has clearly shown its commitment to investing in the next wave of 20nm and 14nm solutions beyond bulk ranging from FinFET to fully depleted SOI. …
John A. Ford, Director of Product Marketing, Physical IP Division, ARM
On October 6th, UMC announced the selection of the ARM® Artisan® Physical IP Platform for the UMC foundry sponsored IP program. This new platform for UMC’s 28nm high-K metal gate (HKMG) process is a natural continuation of the long standing relationship between ARM physical IP division and UMC. ARM Artisan IP has been successfully used in millions of SoCs produced at UMC for more than 10 years on 180nm, 130nm, 90nm, 65nm and 55nm process technologies. The addition of UMC to ARM’s family of 28nm Physical IP platforms has a larger meaning than just a high quality set of IP on a technology-leading process. ARM Artisan IP is now the only physical IP platform available at all four of the 28nm commercial foundries in the world: TSMC, UMC, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, and Samsung.
This makes good sense considering ARM’s expertise in physical IPoptimization and years of establishing early foundry engagement on advance node IP development. ARM started work on physical IP for HKMG processes way back in 2008 with test chips and process qualification chips for IBM’s 32nmLP process. 32nmLP process was the first commercially available HKMG process and is now in high volume production at Samsung for smart phone, tablet and other applications. With millions of production SoCs at 32nm, 28nm is actually the 2nd generation of HKMG IP from ARM and includes all the critical design technique learning from 32nm development and production. ARM is deploying a full platform of standard cells, logic products, memory compilers and interface products at 28nm. Customers can benefit from being able to use consistent IP at all four foundries for the development of their SoC. With ARM’s exhaustive silicon validation process, customers have the assurance, peace of mind and confidence that only comes for using ARM IP.
We’re not stopping there. ARM is now actively developing 20nm physical IP at both IBM and TSMC, with 5 test chips taped out starting in 2009 and several more planned for 2012 and 2013. By engaging early with foundries and developing IP in parallel with the process development, ARM ensures that designers can achieve the full entitlement of the technology, with a high degree of manufacturability. Foundries engage with ARM as a partner for early physical IP because of the long experience we have in developing physical IP on advanced process including CMOS SiON, CMOS HKMG and SOI.
ARM big LITTLE processing: Saving Power through heterogeneous multiprocessing and task content migration [chipestimate YouTube channel, June 18, 2012]Brian Jeff Product Manager at ARM. IP Talks speaker with ChipEstimate.com at DAC 2012 in San Francisco. ARM big LITTLE processing: Saving Power through heterogeneous multiprocessing and task content migration.
ARM Cortex-A7 launch — Presentation, Mike Inglis, EVP & GM ARM Processor Division [ARMflix YouTube channel, Oct 19, 2011]The efficiency of the ARM architecture is the reason why ARM processors use less power and occupy a smaller footprint. The Cortex-A7 processor occupies less than 0.5mm2, using 28nm process technology, and provides compelling performance in both single and multicore configurations. Used as a stand-alone processor, the Cortex-A7 will deliver sub-$100 entry level smartphones in the 2013-2014 timeframe with an equivalent level of processing performance to today’s $500 high-end smartphones.
ARM Expands Processor Optimization Pack Solutions for TSMC 40nm and 28nm Process Variants [ARM press release, April 16, 2012]
A Processor Optimization Pack solution is composed of three elementsnecessary to achieve an optimized ARM core implementation. First, it contains ARM Artisan® Physical IP logic libraries and memory instances that are specifically tuned for a given ARM core and process technology.
This Physical IP is developed through a tightly coupled collaboration with ARM processor engineers in an iterative process to identify the optimal results. Second, it includes a comprehensive benchmarking report to document the exact conditions and results ARM achieved for the core implementation. Finally, it includes a POP Implementation Guide that details the methodology used to achieve the result, to enable the end customer to achieve the same implementation quickly and at low risk.
“A single POP product can be applied to energy-efficient mobile, networking or even enterprise applications, providing a wide range of flexibility for ARM SoC partners to optimize performance and energy-efficiency while reducing risk in their designs,” said Simon Segars, executive vice president and general manager, Processor and Physical IP Division, ARM. “Only ARM can offer a complete roadmap of Processor Optimization Pack implementation solutions so deeply integrated and tightly aligned with ARM processor development activities now and into the future.”
The summary below describes the existing and newly announced POP products for TSMC processes. ARM also incorporates the POP optimizations in hard macros of Cortex cores.
Processor Optimization Pack™ (POP) solutions targeting ARM Cortex™ processors [ARMflix YouTube channel, April 16, 2012]ARM Artisan Physical IP Delivers Optimized Performance and Energy-Efficiency for ARM® Cortex™-A5, Cortex -A7, Cortex-A9 and Cortex-A15 cores.
ARM Holdings Management Discusses Q2 2012 Results – Earnings Call Transcript [Seeking Alpha, July 25, 2012]
If I look at physical IP, the story here is our physical IP is being used right across the different sectors that ARM’s processors are used in. We’re continuing with the processor optimization package activity. It was a record quarter for POPs. The best quarter we’ve had. So total of over 32 POPs sold now, still about a 50% attach rate with Cortex-A licensees, so that’s good in terms of generating royalty for the future.
[Note that here are only 13 companies shown out of those 32 POP licensees.]
And also good in terms of generating royalty for the future is that this quarter, we had 4 new fabless semiconductor companies adopting ARM physical IP for their 28nm designs and beyond. So that is good for royalty growth going forward.
The “Revenue Split Analysis” slide from the Appendix, however, is showing that due to the steadily growing application processor business (simply indicated Processor Division, PD) the share of the Physical IP business (simply indicated Physical IP Division, PIPD) was not growing for the last four years:
With extremely high interest in upcoming technologies of 28nm and beyond more and more Cortex licensees will (should) exploit the POP opportunity. Here is the low-end SoC market leader, MediaTek (Taiwan) example of its upcoming flagship products which should definitely use PoP as well for such a tight delivery schedule (considering the just 10 months availability of Cortex-A7 for licensing, i.e. ~15 months relative to Jan’13 SoC delivery vs. 2-3 years which were required previously).
Will Tu, Director of Business Development at ARM. IP Talks speaker with ChipEstimate.com at DAC 2012 in San Francisco.
Continuing with the ARM Holdings Management Discusses Q2 2012 Results – Earnings Call Transcript [Seeking Alpha, July 25, 2012]
We now have nearly 900 licenses, and so that continues to grow. The pool of licenses that are out there to generate royalties for the future. If I look at just quarter on its own, 23 licenses in total, collection of Cortex-A licenses, including our 12 big.LITTLE licensee. So we’ve now got 12 partners signed up for big.LITTLE. At the other end of this scale, the microcontroller end, I was just talking about the Internet of Things, yes, more licensing of our Cortex-M products.
And our new architecture, the v8 architecture, the 64-bit stuff, we’ve now got 9 v8 licensees, including the latest architecture licensee. And we’ve got this rather, it’s with — rather ill-defined horizontal axis of time going along the slide here. We are at the stage where we’ve done a lot of lead licensing now. We are approaching the first Silicon, the product launch type phase and so the 64-bit program is on track. And the interesting thing about our 64-bit architecture, it is not just about high-end computing and servers, it’s actually people talking about using it and the mobile as well, talking about using it in infrastructure applications, some of the networking applications that I talked about a moment or 2 ago.
ARM Holdings Management Discusses Q2 2012 Results – Earnings Call Transcript, Question-and-Answer Session [Seeking Alpha, July 25, 2012]
… So on the FinFETs with TSMC, can you give us, maybe a bit more comments about this? How do you think it compares with Intel 3D, or whatever they call it? And how involved your PIPD team is involved trying [ph] to transistors characteristics, absorbs transistors? And also, I think the timing has been brought forward by 1 year, I think. So that’s the first question. …
Dealing with the FinFETs first. A year or so ago, when Intel took technology, we said yes. So this is something which has been around in the semiconductor industry for the last decade or more. It’s one of the ways of making transistors more efficient, but it comes with a load of associated challenges that are actually making this stuff and making them yield and that sort holds back the semiconductor industry from taking that step. Intel took the step and announced that they’ve taken the step. They were the first ones over the gate, announcing that they were doing this. Of course, everybody else has been the same, researching it and playing with it for the best part of the last decade. And TSMC had their plans in place. They just were not choosing to go public on FinFET until they were choosing to go public. And we’ve been working with TSMC on their next-generation processes for some time. We always stood here and done presentations and talked about tape outs on 20nm, the first ARM tape out on 20nm was well over a year ago. We’ve taped out first 40nm designs already with some of these players and its R&D activity. As and when the foundry wants to make some of these things public, then they will, and that’s what TSMC have chosen to do this week. And they chose to, I guess, communicate particularly with their customers who are ARM partners by saying, “Not only are we doing some process development in the back room, but we’re also thinking about how you’re going to take this technology to market, the sort of products you’re going to built with it. You’re probably going to build ARM-based products with it, and so we’ve been working with ARM and ARM’s physical IP division to make sure that their physical IP, their microprocessors and our semiconductor process technology, works well together. And that’s all there is to it.”
Janardan Menon – Liberum Capital Limited, Research Division
Two questions. One is on the FinFET agreement with the TSMC, it’s on 64-bit. So I’m just wondering what plans you have on moving the 32-bit, Cortex-A15 kind of products to FinFET? DO you have another agreement with them which we don’t know about and will the timing of the introduction of that be roughly the same as the 64-bit signed? …
Okay. Well, let’s answer the first one. The FinFETs, yes, the announcement is, with our 64-bit processor because just as we want to work with TSMC’s most advanced process technology, they want to work with our most advanced microprocessor, making a 20nm FinFET and later, a 16nm FinFETimplementation so that our 32-bit processors will form naturally out of that development activity. We’re optimizing our physical IP to build microprocessors. We just happen to be using our new 64-bit processor as the vehicle for it. The same physical IP will be very easily used to implement our 32-bit processors.
Janardan Menon – Liberum Capital Limited, Research Division
And with your — as part of the timescale of introductions, is that a 2014 introduction or is it ’15?
Well, we have to stick with the announcements for now. And I think as and when TSMC want to make more comments on when these things are available, then they’ll make more comments. As I said, from a development point of view, we’re taping out stuff all the time. …
Sumant Wahi – Redburn Partners LLP, Research Division
… The second question has to do with the FinFET again. Am I doing — most of the foundries are sort of offering different known transition and in between, I assume, a FinFET would be, an option in between 20nm and probably 16nm. So my question really was that, would you be licensing FinFET technologies separately as well, or is this an exclusive collaboration with TSMC? And then is there a royalty increase coming from products based on FinFET, PIPD, so to speak? …
Okay. Next question was about FinFET and whether it’s essentially a different physical IP product from ARM. And the answer is, well, it’s a different flavor. We have different flavors of our physical IP for each semiconductor process. And so a low-power version of a given note is a different physical IP bundle than a high-profile version. And the FinFET is another flavor again. So it would be an incremental licensing opportunity. But the fact that our physical IP is used, would generate the royalty opportunity. But it’s not an incremental royalty opportunity. The fact that it’s FinFET, it’s just another flavor. So if we’re going to have a 20nm low-power plainer flavor and the FinFET flavor, and the chips are going to be made out of one process technology, and so the royalty opportunity is the same. …
– When sticking with a “David”: CAST Inc.
Decreasing Risk When Selecting Third-Party Semiconductor IP (49th DAC) [castcoresYouTube channel, July 17, 2012]In this presentation captured live at the 49th DAC (June 4, 2012), CAST president Hal Barbour describes ways electronic circuit and system designers can help ensure project success through careful selection of IP cores. Specific examples in the talk are drawn from CAST’s 18 years of semiconductor IP experience and include 8051 MCUs, H.264 and JPEG 2000 compression, and effective customer support for IP users. See more of CAST’s low-risk ASIC and FPGA IP product line and learn about the company at http://www.cast-inc.com. Or jump to these cores mentioned in the talk: • 8051 MCU – http://www.cast-inc.com/ip-cores/8051s/r8051xc2/index.html • H.264 Video – Encoderhttp://www.cast-inc.com/ip-cores/video/h264-mp-e/index.html • J2K Encoder – http://www.cast-inc.com/ip-cores/images/jpeg2k-e/index.html
Nikos Zervas, VP of Marketing, CAST, Inc.
Consider a deeply embedded system that needs the power of a 32-bit processor. Much like that saying from the 1980′s that when choosing PCs “nobody gets fired for buying an IBM,” choosing a processor from the leading processor company is probably the easiest, safest choice, and it’s certainly an undeniably fine product with an extremely effective ecosystem. But making this choice might mean missing an opportunity for differentiation in a competitive market where every advantage is required for success.
The IP portal sites list many 32-bit processor core options beyond the leading processor company, with Chip Estimate and Design and Reuse each returning nearly 300 results for such a search. More significantly, I countalmost 30 different providers of these products. Certainly some of these vendors offer a product, support, or licensing terms—or perhaps even all three—that could give the smart designer a critical edge.
Six of these stand out as being especially popular based on my recent visits with designers in California and Asia:
- the AndesCore from Andes Technology,
- the BA22 developed by Beyond Semiconductor and available from CAST, Inc. (disclosure: I work for CAST),
- the ColdFire from IPextreme
- the eSi-3250 from EnSilica,
- the LEON3 from Aeroflex Gaisler, and
- the MIPS 4KS and others from MIPS Technologies.
The examples of 32-bit processor alternatives I listed earlier all compare favorably with the leading processor company’s products in these factors; any might be the one to give you the extra technical, timeframe, or cost edge you need to make your product more competitive.
The same is true of most other areas of semiconductor IP. Now that our industry embraces the use of third-party IP, the smartest designers will get a major payback from putting up-front effort into investigating the very best IP for their specific needs, whether that initially seems like the “safe” choice or not.
ChipEstimate.com DAC 2012 IP Talks presenter Nikos Zervas [chipestimate YouTube channel, June 21, 2012]Nikos Zervas, VP of Marketing, CAST. IP Talks presenter with ChipEstimate.com IP Talks at DAC 2012 in San Francisco. Leapfrogging Your Competition Through Smart IP Selection. For more information about CAST, go to: http://www.chipestimate.com/prime-partner/140/CAST-IP-Catalog
Fast JPEG Encoder Core from CAST Used in Fastec TS3 High-Speed Camera [CAST press release, March 6, 2012]
Beautiful slow motion footage of colorful Butterflies caught on the Fastec TS3 High Speed Camera by Tom Guilmette at a local greenhouse
CAST and Beyond Semiconductor enter 32-bit Processor Core Partnership [joint press release, June 3, 2011]
The BA22 is a fast, compact, power-saving, 32-bit RISC processor that CAST will offer without royalties. These capabilities plus easy development and integration features make the processor an excellent step up for CAST’s large base of 8-bit 8051 customers who need more processing power. In fact, the BA22’s programming code is so efficient that systems using it may require less silicon area than an 8051 with its respective code and memory.
CAST IP for ASICs and FPGAs: Introduction and Overview [CAST presentation on SlideShare, July 2002], only images for certain slides are included below