Open Source Processors: Fact Or Fiction?


Open source processors are rapidly gaining mindshare, fueled in part by early successes of RISC-V, but that interest frequently is accompanied by misinformation based on wishful thinking and a lack of understanding about what exactly open source entails. Nearly every recent conference has some mention of RISC-V in particular, and open source processors in general, whether that includes keyno... » read more

Why IP Quality Is So Difficult To Determine


Differentiating good IP from mediocre or bad IP is getting more difficult, in part because it depends up on how and where it is used and in part because even the best IP may work better in one system than another—even in chips developed by the same vendor. This has been one of the challenges with IP over the years. In many cases, IP is poorly characterized, regardless of whether that IP wa... » read more

Extending RISC-V ISA With Custom Instruction Set Extension


RISC-V ISA (Instruction Set Architecture) is designed in a modular way. It means that the ISA has several groups of instructions (ISA extensions) that can be enabled or disabled as needed. This allows implementing precisely the instruction groups that the application needs, without having to pay for area or power that will not be used. One of the groups is special; it has no predefined instruct... » read more

Chiplet Momentum Builds, Despite Tradeoffs


Chip design is a series of tradeoffs. Some are technical, others are related to cost, competitive features or legal restrictions. But with the nascent 'chiplet' market, many of the established balance points are significantly altered, depending on market segments and ecosystem readiness. Chiplets provide an alternative mechanism for integrating intellectual property (IP) blocks into a semico... » read more

IP Requires System Context At 6/5/3nm


Driven by each successive generation of semiconductor manufacturing technology, complexity has reached dizzying levels. Every part of the design, verification and manufacturing is more complicated and intense the more transistors are able to be packed onto a die. For these reasons, the entire system must be taken into consideration as a whole – not just as individual building blocks as could ... » read more

Optimization Challenges For Safety And Security


Complexity challenges long-held assumptions. In the past, the semiconductor industry thought it understood performance/area tradeoffs, but over time it became clear this is not so simple. Measuring performance is no longer an absolute. Power has many dimensions including peak, average, total energy and heat, and power and function are tied together. Design teams are now dealing with the impl... » read more

New Approaches To Security


Different approaches are emerging to identify suspicious behavior and shut down potential breaches before they have a chance to do serious damage. This is becoming particularly important in markets where safety is an issue, and in AI and edge devices where the rapid movement of data is essential. These methods are a significant departure from the traditional way of securing devices through l... » read more

Heterogeneous Design Creating Havoc With Firmware Versions


Adding different kinds of processing elements into chips is creating system-level incompatibilities because of sometimes necessary, but usually uncoordinated, firmware updates from multiple vendors. In the past, firmware typically was synchronized with other firmware and the chip was verified and debugged. But this becomes much more difficult when multiple heterogeneous processing elements a... » read more

Week In Review: Design, Low Power


ON Semiconductor will acquire Quantenna Communications for $24.50 per share in an all cash transaction, representing an equity value of approximately $1.07 billion and enterprise value of approximately $936 million. Quantenna, a maker of Wi-Fi chipsets, was founded in 2006 and went public in late 2016. Tools & IP Achronix completed testing and is now demonstrating the 112 Gbps SerDes th... » read more

The Other Side Of Makimoto’s Wave


Custom hardware is undergoing a huge resurgence across a variety of new applications, pushing the semiconductor industry to the other side of Makimoto's Wave. Tsugio Makimoto, the technologist who identified the chip industry’s 10-year cyclical swings between standardization and customization, predicted there always will be room in ASICs for general-purpose processors. But it's becoming mo... » read more

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