Journey To The Center Of The Ecosystem

Why the GSA board’s elections are so important and why the seats are so contested this year.

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From the outside it looks like business as usual, but the race for board seats on the GSA has become particularly competitive this year.

GSA originally was created as an organization for fabless companies, but you wouldn’t know that looking at its membership roster. It has evolved into a who’s who of the entire semiconductor supply chain, including everyone from foundries like TSMC and UMC to semiconductor companies like IBM, STMicroelectronics and Samsung to EDA providers like Synopsys and Cadence.

Virtually anyone can become a member of the GSA, and given the list of members it appears that a good portion of the industry has signed on. But you have to get elected to the board of directors, which basically puts you into the center of the customer and supplier ecosystem. The proof is in the attendance numbers. Average attendance at board meetings of non-profit organizations is roughly 50%. The GSA’s attendance is closer to 100%, according to GSA president Jodi Shelton.

For two board seats in two categories there are 13 different executives in the running from as many companies. One is for the broadly defined semiconductor board seat, where 10 different companies are competing. The second is a new category of value chain producers (VCPs), where eSilicon, Global Unichip, and Silicon 360 are each vying for the spot.

While most of this happens behind the scenes—the lobbying for votes with recorded messages and the campaigning to members—what’s interesting is the hidden message behind all of this. The GSA is representative of the industry, and increasingly no company can stand on its own. An SoC isn’t the work of a single company—even at big companies like Intel, IBM or Samsung—which means it’s now increasingly important to be at the center of the ecosystem to remain competitive.

That makes the stakes higher than ever before, and it means GSA elections should become even more hotly contested at every process node—most likely with new spinouts like the VCP definition. And like all complex designs these days, this should get very interesting.

–Ed Sperling