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NoC adoption surge at Chinese chip maker

NoC adoption surge at Chinese chip maker
by Eric Esteve on 08-23-2013 at 9:55 am

The news from Arteris, Inc., announcing that “its interconnect fabric IP has been licensed and deployed in a majority of chips developed by China’s leading semiconductor companies for applications including consumer electronics, smartphones, and tablets,” is holding attention for several reasons. At first, because it’s a clear indication that the Network-on-Chip (NoC) has become an indispensable piece to design a System-on-Chip (SoC), although the commercial NoC is less than ten years old. The second point is that this news highlight Arteris supremacy on the interconnect fabric IP (the other NoC name), despite the desperate effort from one of Arteris competitor to limit this success story, even by using legal battle field instead of trying to develop a better competitive product. We, at Semiwiki, have already blogged several times about the NoC features and the benefits it bring when implemented into a SoC, like to reduce wire congestion and ease intra-chip communication. We also blog about this legal battle, and we have clearly expressed our opinion: trying to compensate a lack of innovation by going to the legal field without good reasons is…#%¤!!&, and even more!

Let’s concentrate on the fact that four of the top five Chinese chip maker addressing consumer, wireless and tablet market segment have integrated a commercial NoC. I remember from discussion I had with Kurt Schuler, VP of Marketing with Arteris, that he told me about the early phase of business development, when Arteris sales force was trying to design-in the NoC five or six years ago to the large SoC chip makers in Europe and USA: at that time, the real competition was with the internally designed solution. Everybody who has ever to fight with the NIH syndrome knows that it is even more difficult to displace an internal design. Quite often, you try to sell a product to the same people who have developed an identical solution, explaining that your product is better, so they just fell stupid. They know that, if you are successful, they may lose their jobs, or at least their credibility… not an easy story.

Which is remarkable with Chinese chip makers is how fast they came up to speed, competing with, by far, older companies able to capitalize on long established R&D teams and associated know-how. These start-ups had to move quickly, so they faster took the right decision: integrate an off-the-shelf product, validated in dozen of SoC design – and in production on billions of IC (we are talking about the consumer and wireless market). This remind me the emergence of GSM based cell phone in Scandinavia. Did you ever ask yourself why the very first GSM cell phone successful manufacturers were Ericsson (Sweden) and Nokia (Finland)? Just because during the long winter the earth is frozen, so implementing a wired phone network is very painful! Developing an Application Processor and managing the intra-chip communication is certainly a great challenge when you start from scratch, a good way to minimize this challenge is simply to implement a commercial NoC!

If you listen to Analyst, they say it differently, but the idea is the same: “We see a very dynamic market in China’s local integrated-circuit (IC) design market, with double digit year-over-year growth projected for 2013,” said Vincent Gu, Principal Analyst, Market Intelligence, with IHS iSuppli. Tools such as Arteris’ network-on-chip interconnect IP fabric enable these design firms to more effectively meet the growing demand for semiconductors in China at a lower cost point.” Based on the IHS iSuppli ranking of the top Chinese fabless semiconductor OEMs in terms of revenue, Arteris counts four of the top five OEMs as customers – Spreadtrum Communications, HiSilicon Technologies, RDA Technologies and Allwinner Technology. Just listen to Arteris’ customer feedback:

“Arteris has provided exceptional support to our teams, giving us the confidence to implement the FlexNoC solution in our critical Smartphone SoC platform,” said Li Shiqin, IC Design Manager at Rockchip.

“The Arteris FlexNoC commercial SoC interconnect fabric IP gives us the performance required by our customers,” said Ding Ran, chief technology officer of Allwinner Technology. “We have seen first-hand how the interconnect IP improves process flow and overall system performance.”

Let say that I completely agree with Charles Janac, saying: “Arteris has achieved significant market share in the China fabless semiconductor market by not only solving our customers’ design challenges, but also by enabling them to quickly adopt best-of-breed technologies and development practices,” said K. Charles Janac, President and CEO of Arteris. “The Arteris interconnect IP fabric technology is one of the most significant SoC cost reduction and productivity innovations of the current decade, based on technology results and market adoption.”

Eric Esteve from IPNEST

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