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The Future of Chip Design in the Internet Age

The Future of Chip Design in the Internet Age
by Mike Gianfagna on 05-20-2015 at 1:00 am

Huge designs, spectacular design costs, astronomical capital expenditure. Welcome to the present day semiconductor industry. As discussed in my prior post, the days of democratized silicon access have been replaced by an elite market. Custom chips are once again a rich person’s game. Does it have to stay this way? I personally believe everything in the universe is cyclical, so a new era of democratized silicon access is coming.

But what will trigger it? There’s been plenty written about the internet of this or that. OK, the internet of everything. Will this movement be the trigger? I don’t think so. IoT, or IoE if you like will ultimately create demand for custom silicon. That demand will require a *very* efficient, low-risk, cost-managed approach to fulfill it. Something quite different from the highly complex, interdependent processes that were created in the computer age.

We think about evolving business models a lot at eSilicon. A few months ago we conducted some market research on semiconductor customer sentiments around the cloud, big data and internet connectivity. Can these technologies tame chip design problems? The results were enlightening.


Big data analytics was seen by the group as very promising. Respondents identified the massive volume of information that needs to be understood to reduce the risk associated with system-on-chip (SoC) design. Data that comes from all over the world and is constantly changing. The reason this item didn’t make it to “excellent” had to do with a general lack of understanding of what exactly big data is. The gut feeling was that this methodology was the only way to deal with such huge volumes of information, but few could articulate exactly how it would work.

One person in particular conveyed a good perspective on the topic:

“The era of big data is upon us. We will look at 4 elements involved in creating value from big data: 1) collecting distributed data, 2) extracting patterns from noisy data, 3) insights in real-time from flowing data, 4) architecture for chips of the future.”

Use of the internet to flatten the world and efficiently transmit information was a homerun. Virtually all respondents saw the benefits of a semiconductor industry that was online and available 24/7. Using the cloud, well that one was a bit controversial. One person seemed enlightened:

“By utilizing the cloud, design teams can have input and real-time data from home, office or anywhere a secure connection can be obtained.”

A lot of folks worried about security. After reading a lot of responses, I can paraphrase as follows:

“I’ll put my life savings and maybe my most sensitive photos in the cloud, but my design’s RTL – NO WAY!”


I think this will change over time. We’ll see. All this research told us the customer base believes that big data and the internet hold promise for the future of chip design. We have believed that for a long time, so the customer validation was good. Leveraging these technologies can create a more transparent semiconductor design and procurement environment – one that supports self-service automation and real-time feedback. A more democratized market – again. There are many, many opportunities to improve the customer experience as the semiconductor industry goes online, so there will plenty to discuss.

We recently announced a second-generation internet-based platform for IP evaluation and IC design optimization, quoting and work-in-process tracking. It’s an ambitious project to put the semiconductor business online. Take a look at what we’re up to. I’d like to hear your comments.

From Mike Gianfagna of eSilicon



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