5th December 2007

Decline in ASIC design starts

The number of ASIC designs taping out in 2007 looks set to be 3,275 down 4 percent from 2006’s 3,408, according to market research company Gartner Inc. Of the 2007 ASIC design starts, about 200 starts made at 65-nanometer design rules or below.

A few interesting points from this report:

- In general ASIC design starts are declining. Exponentially increasing cost at leading edge plus a strong ASSP offering (which amortizes costs across multiple customers) are cited as the main factors. - Companies pushing leading-edge ASIC designs tend to be in high-performance computing, wired communications, high-end storage, high-end cellular phones and video game consoles.

- The average revenue per design and the average units per design continue to rise, resulting in overall growth in ASIC revenue.

- Designers in China are not using leading edge technologies; hence contribute to slowing of the overall ASIC start-ups’ decline.

- This also leads to China representing a market with ASIC growth potential.

- More ASIC design starts are predicted in Asia-Pac

Now, we have been talking of ASIC decline for the last 5-6 years. The question remains: is there any life left in the ASIC market? The answer is a provisional “yes.” as per  Hugh Durdan, vice president of marketing for eSilicon Corp, a fabless ASIC house and I am inclined to agree with him due to the following reasons:

- Inspite of overall decline in ASIC design starts, overall revenue is increasing. Big players like Cisco, Nortel and other major OEMs continue to use ASICs for differentiation

- While FPGAs have improved in their race to catch up (and substitute) ASICs, the gap still remains. Structured ASICs have tried to fill this gap but have had a mixed response from the industry and market. Till the industry figures out a way to address this gap, ASICs and FPGAs will co-exist

- The big ASIC players have come up with various approaches to revive this ASIC market. Some of them are:

- IBM, world’s no 2 ASIC supplier (after TI) maintains that they do not see any slow down. It rolled out its ASIC offering this year in 45nm techno which combines embedded DRAM with SOI technology. However, let me add that this is more geared towards niche & bleeding edge applications and the mainstream ASIC sector consists of products based on 130- and 90-nm technologies and the 65-nm ASIC market remains small. Also SOI is more costly than the traditional bulk silicon process and this may not help the mainstream ASIC market.

- Earlier this year, NEC Electronics rolled out the CB-55L, a cell-based ASIC technology built around a 55-nm process. Believed to be the world’s first logic device that utilizes a high-k dielectric film for the gate stack, it claims to reduce leakage current and improve power consumption by 40 percent over previous 90-nm devices

- Toshiba is readying its previously announced, 45-nm ASIC line. The technology is based on bulk CMOS, which it claims will outperform the SOI-based offering from IBM.  

posted in Uncategorized, ASICs | 5 Comments

30th August 2007

ST-Infineon merger

With rumours afloat about a potential STMicroelectronics and Infineon Technologies merger, most of the news on it has been on how the thus created power semiconductor giant will face the ire of the European Union’s competition authorities.

 

So it was a refreshing & light take to read comments by David Manners from Electronics Weekly in which he cited culture as a stumbling block for mergers in the chip industry.

I recollect when way back in late eighties/early nineties when I was working at STMicroelectronics (then SGS-Thomson) headquarters in Agrate, Italy. We had just lost a design project to Siemens. To add to the local woes, this was just after Germany won the World Cup. On hearing the project news, one of my disgruntled local colleagues exclaimed – Hey, we just gave them the World Cup; what else do they want??

 

Well, as David said in his blog – Does Bozzoti speak German?

posted in Uncategorized | 0 Comments

5th June 2007

Just moved…

Hi folks, welcome to my new blog address; I’ve just moved my blog from blogger (www.asic-vlsi.blogspot.com) to here (www.asic-vlsi.com/blog). Whilst I moved, I re-titled the blog too! Have managed to move across all old posts; however could not carry across the comments.

Hope you like the new look.

posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

2nd February 2005

Welcome Me to Blogging World

This blog shall attempt to cover thoughts and ideas related to the VLSI Ecosystem

posted in Uncategorized | 0 Comments

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