Week In Review: System-Level Design

Cadence buys Forte; Mentor buys Mecel tools; eSilicon adds package option on MPW; ARM wins security deal; CEVA reports numbers; chip sales hit record.

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Cadence agreed to buy Forte Design Systems for an undisclosed sum, adding further proof that the market for high-level synthesis and tools that run at higher levels of abstraction is finally hitting its stride. Behind this acquisition is a rising pain level due to increasing complexity in SoCs—IP integration, low power concerns and much more of everything, from transistors to memories—has finally outpaced existing tool capabilities for those companies that can afford to build advanced chips.

Mentor Graphics acquired Mecel’s AUTOSAR development tools. Mecel, based in Sweden, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Delphi Corp., the giant auto parts maker.

eSilicon added package services to its automated online quote system for multi-project wafer shuttles. The company says that MPWs reduce prototyping costs by up to 90% because they group multiple IC designs into a single mask. MPWs are not a new idea. They were first made popular by DARPA in the early 1980s as a way of cutting costs for researchers, but they fell out of favor with chipmakers as costs continued to drop throughout the following decades. Complexity and rising costs are changing the economics once again.

ARM won a deal with Crocus Technology, which licensed its secure processor core for secure, low-power smart card products. Security is becoming a big deal in SoCs, particularly as the Internet of Things begins building momentum.http://www.arm.com/about/newsroom/crocus-technology-licenses-arm-securcore-processor.php ARM also reported financial results for Q4 and calendar year 2013. In Q4, revenue was $302.9 million, up from $262.8 million in the same period in 2012. Net cash was $77.9 million, up from $74.1 million in 2012. For the year, revenue was $1.117 billion, up from $913.1 million in 2012. Net cash was $344.5 million, up from $267.3 million in 2012.

CEVA announced its financial results for Q4 and 2013. Revenue for Q4 was $14 million, up from $13 million in 2012. Net income for the quarter was $3.1 million, up from $2.8 million in 2012. For the year, revenue was $48.9 million, down from $53.7 million in 2012. Net income was $6.7 million for the year, down from $13.7 million in 2012. The company attributed much of the drop in net income last year to an aggressive stock repurchase program.

The worldwide market for semiconductors is growing. The Semiconductor Industry Association said sales reached $305.6 billion in 2013, breaking the $300 billion barrier for the first time in history. Global sales were up 4.8% from $291.6 billion in 2012, and Q4 sales accounted for $79.9 billion of that, up 7.7% from 2012. The Americas were up 13.1% year over year, and the U.S. semiconductor market grew nearly three times faster than the rest of the world.

The White House has come out in favor of wide band gap chips, in a blog, as a way of reducing power in areas ranging from lighting to consumer electronics. The move would open the way to higher-mobility III-V compound semiconductors, as well as silicon photonics both on and between chips. There is no mention whether the federal government is going to ratchet up research funding, which it did with early semiconductor research. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.