We have got used to services like Uber and Lyft (at least in cities that are not so anti-consumer as to ban them, I’m looking at you New York. Et vous Paris). But in most of the semiconductor world we are still stuck standing at the side of the road waving our hand helplessly in the hope that the light on that taxi is actually on. Leading the vanguard of changing this is eSilicon. They put the “e” in Silicon, as it were.
What eSilicon has been doing is taking more and more of their customer interface where traditionally you would need to go through a person, and moving it online so that it is completely automatic. Just like Lyft and ATMs, this has two benefits:
- the user of the service gets what they want quicker, without having to stand in line and without having to interface with someone who doesn’t add much value and is just a conduit to the information they really want
- eSilicon’s cost of providing the service is lower and it scales more easily to large numbers of users
See The Silicon ATM
eSilicon started with making it possible for customers to track their own projects as they progressed through fab, testing, packaging and so on. They provided real-time design progress and IC delivery tracking, including order history, forecasts and yield data.
Next up was MPW (multi-project wafer) quoting. By their nature, MPWs contain a lot of designs and so the natural order of things is to require a lot of quotes for a relatively small amount of revenue (MPWs are not used for production orders).
They extended this to getting production quotes. These really are genuine quotes, not some sort of estimate that is low-balled to try and get the job. If you sign the quote, eSilicon will honor the pricing and other terms of the contract.
Next up was making eSilicon’s library of IP accessible and making it possible to do a design with their IP, switch IP in mid-design and more, all online and without having to issue any sort of purchase order. Of course, before you can tapeout the chip, you have to purchase the IP that you have actually ended up using to get the layout dropped in.
Finally, just a couple of weeks ago, eSilicon introduced design virtualization technology which uses big data analytics to allow optimal selection of IP, process options, temperature ranges, signoff corners and more.
eSilicon has completely modernized the user interface of all of these tools and brought them together under the name STAR, which stands for Self-service, Transparent, Accurate, Real-time. STAR consists today of four products:
- STAR Navigator, which allows you to search, select and try IP online
- STAR Explorer, which allows you to get quotes online, either for MPW shuttles or for volume production
- STAR Tracker, which allows you to keep track of your design once it enters the production process
- STAR Optimizer, which is the interface to eSilicon’s design virtualization technology. This checks if a design is optimization-ready and provides an interface to submit the design. Design optimization is provided as an eSilicon service since the procedure is not automatic and requires an expert pilot. It is a jet fighter not an automobile
I took some of the services out for a spin. As a humble blogger I don’t have a design in progress so I can’t play with the STAR Tracker. But I can at least pretend I have a design and get some quotes.
First an MPW. Here is the form to provide the data required for the quote.
If you have used the old MPW quote system you will see that this is a lot cleaner. The forms are dynamic in the sense that, for example, if you select a different foundry then you get a different selection of options.
The interface for getting a full production quote is more complex. It starts off very similar.
But there are a lot more fields that will open up for you to fill out. I’m not going to go through the whole thing. You can try it yourself just to see how it works, eSilicon won’t mind. Just get registered if you are not already and you can try any of these services for yourself for free.
The last tool, the STAR Optimizer, allows you to run a free audit script to determine if your design is clean and optimization ready. If it is then you can simply click a button in the interface and…well, ok, this is the one thing that is not completely automatic. eSilicon will contact you and quote you for the optimization service and then (assuming you accept the quote, obviously) they will do all the optimization runs and give you the information you required. So not quite untouched by human hand in this case. But an interesting twist is that you only pay eSilicon for the service if they can optimize the design as agreed to in the quote you develop with them.
So there it is. Reach for your mouse and reach for the STARs.
The eSilicon STAR page, including links to register or login, is here.