Week In Review: Design, Low Power

Qualcomm to buy processor startup; DSP for sensors; EDA, IP up 15%; Intel’s new CEO.


Qualcomm will acquire data center chip startup Nuvia for approximately $1.4 billion. Nuvia is working on a data center SoC and Arm-based CPU core it claims will lower performance per total cost of ownership by matching high performance with high efficiency and limiting maximum power to that which can be dissipated in an air-cooled environment. Qualcomm said Nuvia’s technology would be incorporated into its portfolio of products, including the Snapdragon platform. Founded in 2019, Nuvia raised a $240 million Series B investment in September. The company was founded by former SoC and CPU architects from Apple and Google. It is based in Santa Clara, Calif.

Tools & IP
CEVA debuted the SensPro2 DSP family. The family targets for AI and DSP processing workloads associated with a range of sensors including camera, radar, lidar, Time-of-Flight, microphones, and inertial measurement units. The SensPro2 family includes seven vector DSP cores, scaling in power and performance from entry-level cores that provide up to 1 TOPS AI performance and high-end cores reaching 3.2 TOPS. They can be configured with application-specific ISAs for radar, audio, computer vision, and SLAM, along with parallel vector compute options for floating point and integer data types.

Menta will be offering eFPGAs incorporating cryptographic IP (including AES and RSA) from Secure-IC. The companies say that embedding security features such as cryptographic algorithms in eFPGA offers the capability to upgrade throughout the life of a product to keep compliant with security standards.

Arasan Chip Systems launched its second generation MIPI D-PHY v1.1 IP supporting speeds of up to 1.5 Gbps on TSMC 22nm ULP and ULL processes for SoC designs. The IP is optimized for lower power targeting wearables and IoT display applications that have smaller resolution screens. It is also available as a Tx only IP for area and power savings.

Chips&Media announced its latest series of video codec IPs, WAVE6, targeting applications such as UHD TVs, set-top boxes, VR/AR, smartphones, tablets, camcorders, cameras, and others with super-high resolution. The WAVE6 video codec IPs focus on ultra-low latency, area, and reducing bandwidth and memory footprint.

SEGGER released a new Open Flashloader for RISC-V systems. The template can be adjusted to fit any RISC-V system and allows engineers to write flash loaders which fit into 2kB of RAM. It enables J-Link debug probes to download directly into the flash memory of a RISC-V Microcontroller or SoC and provides a solution for mass production programming using the Flasher series of flash programmers. The company’s portfolio of J-Link software is also now available for Linux on ARM, for both 32-bit and 64-bit platforms.

Samsung utilized several Arm processors in its Exynos 2100. The SoC, optimized for 5nm, contains Arm Cortex-X1 CPU in a tri-cluster octa-core configuration alongside the Cortex-A78 CPU, as well as the Mali-G78 GPU. The Cortex-X1 provides flexibility and scalability to increase peak performance relative to Arm’s standard CPUs.

Hailo licensed Arteris IP’s FlexNoC Interconnect IP and the accompanying Resilience Package for use in its AI processor targeting automotive, smart cities, smart retail, Industry 4.0 and other markets. Hailo cited the interconnect’s efficiency enabling reduced die area and power consumption.

Socionext is expanding its use of Synopsys IP to include HBM2E IP for maximum memory throughput in its AI engine and accelerator SoC. Socionext also plans to use Synopsys’ next-generation DesignWare IP solutions including HBM3.

Shipbuilder Navantia will use Ansys’ simulation solutions as part of its Shipyard 4.0 Integrated Business Management System to monitor the operational lifecycle of navy ships, including using physics-based digital twins, to improve product quality and speed production.

Intel appointed Pat Gelsinger as its new CEO. Currently the CEO of VMware since 2012, Gelsinger was president and chief operating officer of EMC Information Infrastructure Products at EMC, and before that spent 30 years at Intel that included serving as the company’s first CTO, as an architect of the original 80486 processor, leading 14 different microprocessor programs, and playing key roles in the Core and Xeon families. Gelsinger will take over from current CEO Bob Swan in February.

EDA and IP revenue grew to $2.95 billion, up 15% over $2.57 billion in the same period in 2019, according to the ESD Alliance Market Statistic Service. The four-quarter moving average increased 8.3%. Each segment saw growth, with CAE, the largest market segment, growing 10.7% in Q3 to $927.6 million, while IC physical design and verification increased 9.1% to $608.2 million. PCBs and MCMs increased 8.3% to $260.4 million. Semiconductor IP rose 25.8% to $1.05 billion. Additionally, services revenue grew 11% to $105.9 million, and each region reported revenue increases. Hiring continues, with tracked companies employing 47,087 people in Q3 2020, a 1.1% increase over Q2 2020 and 4.8% increase over Q3 2019.

It’s not just EDA: semiconductor revenue reached $449.8 billion, an increase of 7.3% from 2019, according to Gartner. The impact of COVID-19 was different than expected at the beginning of 2020, said Andrew Norwood, research vice president at Gartner. While some areas such as automotive and industrial took a hit, “server demand was strong as hyperscale customers, which in 2020 accounted for over 65% of server demand, rushed to add capacity to cope with extra demand during lockdowns in the first half of 2020. Additionally, strong demand for PCs from enterprises and consumers due to increased work and study from home led to strong growth in CPUs, NAND flash and DRAM.”

The value of semiconductor M&A deals announced in 2020 reached a new high at $118.0 billion, surpassing the previous record of $107.7 billion reached in 2015, said IC Insights. Five deals comprised about 80% of that total: Analog Devices and Maxim Integrated, Nvidia and Arm, SK Hynix and Intel’s NAND flash memory business, Intel and Xilinx, and Marvell and Inphi.

Graphics cards are a hot item, with both Nvidia and AMD struggling to meet demand for the latest lines, reported The Verge. Cards from both companies are reselling at highly inflated prices online, and AMD plans to try selling more of its cards directly to consumers, while Nvidia said supplies “will likely remain lean through Q1” for both consumers and partners.

Meanwhile, Intel is planning to release a discrete graphics chip on a version of TSMC’s 7nm process, according to Reuters. Targeting the PC gaming market, the chip is expected to be released late this year or in early 2022 and compete with Nvidia and AMD gaming chips that cost between $400 and $600.

Find a new conference or learning opportunity at our events page, or check out an upcoming webinar.

The Asia and South Pacific Design Automation Conference 2021 will take place Jan. 18-21. Synopsys’ Virtual Prototyping Day will be held Jan. 20. Si2 will host a workshop on efforts to assess AI capacity and infrastructure, as well as application of AI for semiconductor test, on Jan. 29.

In February, the 2021 International Solid-State Circuits Virtual Conference will be held Feb. 13-22. The International Symposium on Field-Programmable Gate Arrays will take place Feb. 28-Mar. 2.

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