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2024 Outlook with Elad Alon of Blue Cheetah Analog Design

2024 Outlook with Elad Alon of Blue Cheetah Analog Design
by Daniel Nenni on 03-13-2024 at 10:00 am

Elad Alon Blue Cheetah Analog Design

We have been working with Blue Cheetah Analog Design for three years now with great success. With new process nodes coming faster than ever before and with chiplets being pushed to the forefront of technology, the die-to-die interconnect traffic on SemiWiki has never been greater and chiplets is one of our top search terms.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your company. 
I am the CEO and co-founder of Blue Cheetah Analog Design. I am also an Adjunct Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at UC Berkeley, where I was previously a Professor and co-director of the Berkeley Wireless Research Center (BWRC). I’ve held founding, consulting, or visiting positions at Locix, Lion Semiconductor (acquired by Cirrus Logic), Wilocity (acquired by Qualcomm), Cadence, Xilinx, Sun Labs, Intel, AMD, Rambus, Hewlett Packard, and IBM Research, where I worked on digital, analog, and mixed-signal integrated circuits for computing, high-speed communications, and test and measurement. According to Lance Leventhal at the Chiplet Summit, I have 280 published articles and 75+ patents. I have to admit I’m not sure about those numbers, but I do have a lot of experience with integrated circuit design – and particularly in analog / mixed-signal circuits – which is proving invaluable in the era of chiplets.  This is the last I’ll say about myself directly – in the rest of this interview, I’ll be telling the story of Blue Cheetah and our vision for chiplets and the overall semiconductor market.

What was the most exciting high point of 2023 for your company?
We announced silicon success on our die-to-die interconnect IP and picked up many exciting design wins. We’ve publicly disclosed DreamBig, Ventana, and FLC as our customers, and most recently, we announced our design win with Tenstorrent. We will announce more design wins soon. To our knowledge, most of the emerging chiplet product companies are using Blue Cheetah die-to-die interconnect, as are a number of large corporations.

What was the biggest challenge your company faced in 2023?
Thanks to the amazing support (not only financially) from our investors – particularly from our founding investors Sehat Sutardja and Weili Dai, as well as NEA (which led our Series B round in 2022) – along with our unique product offering (customized die-to-die interconnect IP), I’m happy to say that funding and filling the sales funnel have not been our biggest challenges. Keeping up with demand, on the other hand, is definitely keeping us on our toes; I always like to tell the members of my team that this is a very good challenge to have the opportunity to address.  The tremendous momentum building around chiplets drives the demand for Blue Cheetah’s solutions, so in some senses, the challenge is in scaling up along with that ongoing revolution.

How is your company’s work addressing this biggest challenge?
In the bigger picture, hardware and silicon designers look to chiplets as a key enabler for ever more capable and cost-efficient systems. Chiplets are well established amongst large players that control all components/aspects of a design (i.e., single vendor), and the allure of a “plug and play” chiplet market has garnered significant attention and investment from the industry.  Although a number of technical and business hurdles need to be overcome before that vision fully comes to fruition, the large majority of the benefits of that vision can be realized immediately.  Specifically, small groups of companies with aligned product strategies and (typically) complementary expertise are forming multi-vendor ecosystems.  Within these ecosystems, the companies can coordinate on the functionality, requirements, and interfaces of each chiplet (and, of course, the die-to-die interconnects that glue them together) to meet the needs of a specific product and/or product family. Blue Cheetah’s solutions support all three of these use cases (single-vendor, multi-vendor ecosystem, and plug-and-play), and many of our customers/partners are pioneers of the multi-vendor ecosystem approach.

What do you think the biggest growth area for 2024 will be, and why?
Indeed, the semiconductor market is in the middle of a major resurgence in recognition, investment, and (averaged over the last ~3 years) growth.  AI has played an enormous role in this resurgence. Still, the basis is broader than that – consider, for example, that today, 7 out of the top 10 companies, as ranked by market capitalization design, incorporate and/or sell their own semiconductors. (If you look at the top 10 tech companies by market cap, it goes to 9 out of 10, with the 10th being a semi manufacturing equipment supplier.)  The capabilities/cost structure of a company’s chips directly drives the user experience/value of the company’s products/services, and the companies delivering those products are in the best position to know what silicon capabilities/cost structure have the highest impact.  This hopefully makes it clear why specialization and customization are major themes; they have been for ~5+ years already and will continue to be in 2024 (and beyond).

How is your company’s work addressing this growth?
Chiplets are, in principle, the ideal vehicle to achieve the goals of specialization and customization with favorable manufacturing and design cost structures.  Ideally, a company can focus on its differentiating technologies while incorporating leading solutions to the remaining components of the product via (possibly other vendors’) chiplets and IP. At the same time, each chiplet can be targeted to the specific manufacturing technology / die size with the best cost/yield characteristics for that function.  Of course, all of these chiplets need to communicate with each other, and that is where Blue Cheetah is focused.  Blue Cheetah is unique in offering die-to-die interconnect solutions with the extensive customizability and configurability needed to meet the needs of the full range of chiplet products.  We also support the most comprehensive set of process technologies – we have already implemented our IP in 7 different nodes, including 5nm and below.

What conferences did you attend in 2023, and how was the traffic?
2023 was an action-packed year for us in terms of conferences – I believe someone from the Blue Cheetah team was at a conference once every month or at most two – and in-person attendance is definitely up (approaching or exceeding pre-COVID levels).  For example, we were at the Chiplet Summit, ISSCC, DAC, OCP Global Summit, and several foundry events. Our silicon demo generated a lot of interest, and we were very happy with the engagement from the people and partners who visited our booth.

Will you attend conferences in 2024? Same or more?
2024 is looking to be even more action-packed – both in terms of conferences (we’ve already been at CES and the Chiplet Summit) and more broadly.  With the global drive to establish and rejuvenate local semiconductor capabilities, we plan to expand to additional international venues this year to further foster relationships across a broad industry base.

Also Read:

Chiplet ecosystems enable multi-vendor designs

Die-to-Die Interconnects using Bunch of Wires (BoW)

Analog Design Acceleration for Chiplet Interface IP

Blue Cheetah Technology Catalyzes Chiplet Ecosystem

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