What Is Silicon Lifecycle Management? A Strategic Imperative

The ability to ‘monitor what matters’ through the life of a chip has serious benefits.


The recent buzz about silicon lifecycle management speaks to the boom in high-stakes electronic devices. Whether it is an SoC used in a vehicle or in the datacenter, there are compelling reasons to monitor and analyze data regarding the design, realization, deployment, and field service of the device.

While silicon lifecycle management is an emerging paradigm in the semiconductor industry, it is based on the well-established practice of product lifecycle management (PLM) and enables the same kind of capabilities to better plan and optimize ICs, plus comply with industry standards and meet legal liability requirements.

Why silicon lifecycle solutions now?

The semiconductor industry faces new challenges as a result of technology, device, and system-level scaling. Perhaps the most important trend towards the use of lifecycle management in semiconductors is the increasing interconnectedness of devices and data. This interconnectedness is a major source of threat in terms of cybersecurity breaches. But new business models in the automotive industry – like mobility as a service – rely inherently on connectedness. The need to update software over the air and monitor the performance and usage of fleets of deployed devices requires the use of some form of lifecycle solution.

The increase in system complexity in particular means ICs are used in ever more complex, pervasive, and mission-critical applications. Chip makers must ensure the reliability, safety, and security of SoCs in mission-critical systems, which requires visibility into the SoCs so you can monitor and asses the performance, functional safety and cybersecurity of the device throughout its entire service life. Silicon lifecycle solutions will be required for the next generation of safety-critical devices deployed in cars, but are also useful for the datacenter sector, where greater product reliability, safety, and security have direct bottom-line consequences.

The adoption of silicon lifecycle solutions is a strategic imperative, but in practical terms, what will it deliver?

First, it establishes a holistic approach that allows semiconductor companies to improve existing processes. For example, advanced design-for-test (DFT) techniques enhance IC quality, increase test efficiency, and enable diagnosis-driven yield analysis (DDYA). All of this reduces costs, increases quality, and speeds time-to-market for the semiconductor maker.

Moving further along the supply chain, functional monitoring augmentations directly benefit the IC makers’ OEM customers. For example, fine-grained data about the chip’s real-world functional behavior (and its expected behavior) can be invaluable as a manufacturer goes through the process of systems integration and bring-up for an end product. Going a step further, the same types of data can be used for continuous optimization of systems after deployment – for instance in high-performance computing (HPC) operations, where ensuring load balancing between many CPUs can bring substantial benefits.

A complete silicon lifecycle solution makes devices easier to integrate into end products, and after deployment, more reliable and more secure. The ability to ‘monitor what matters’ throughout the useful life of the device enables preventive maintenance and continuous performance optimization in the field, which is vital for new business models such as mobility-as-a-service. Figure 1 illustrates the concept of silicon lifecycle management.

Fig. 1: Silicon lifecycle solutions cover the design, realization, and utilization of complex SoCs to address debug, test, yield management, safety and security, and in-field optimization.

Elements of silicon lifecycle management

What might such a solution look like? The essential capabilities of a silicon lifecycle solution include:

  • On-chip hardware and design for test (DFT) logic to monitor and assess circuit behavior
  • Embedded intelligence to acquire relevant data in a manageable form and to formulate and implement a local response where necessary
  • Open interfaces to allow data sharing, data processing, and response definition in the cloud
  • Collaborative business models that allow a holistic approach to the value chain

Essentially, a lifecycle solution for the semiconductor industry needs to collect data from the chip and from the processes involved in its production. It needs to provide analytics capabilities to process potentially huge volumes of data, delivering actionable information. And it must make that information available when and where it is needed. Once in place, a chipmaker can create holistic, data-driven solutions that enhance semiconductor design, realization, and utilization. The bottom-line benefits are substantial as the IC design and production process becomes more responsive, agile, and cost-efficient.

A silicon lifecycle solution encompasses the traditional semiconductor value chain – design, manufacturing, test, and bring-up. It also reaches deep into the deployment phase of the device; providing information that makes it easier for customers to design-in the device and to bring up end products; enabling continuous in-field monitoring for preventive maintenance in the field; and ensuring devices remain performant after field upgrades. It feeds information forward from the device manufacturer to OEM customers and end-users, and brings information from the field back to the semiconductor conception and production process.

To enable a silicon lifecycle solution, first the semiconductor architect needs to include design augmentations that gather data from the chip and facilitate the rest of the process. Second, the semiconductor company needs to work with players across the ecosystem, including semiconductor IP providers, fabrication facilities, OEMs, service companies, and database and analytics providers.

Siemens EDA offers a portfolio of solutions within the Tessent product family to enable silicon lifecycle solutions. A high-level conceptual illustration of the solution layers is shown in figure 2. Broadly, we consider 4 distinct layers:

  • Assess, monitor, and manage
    This layer includes the sensors and monitors that form the foundation of the silicon lifecycle solutions platform, gathering data about the system that can be used at various stages of the lifecycle. The monitors include structural monitors and functional monitors. Functional monitors are Tessent Embedded Analytics IP that observe the interactions between silicon subsystems and between the silicon and the embedded software.
  • Rapid analytics
    A low-latency response embedded decision engine that detects, understands, and responds to a threat in the minimum amount of time. In some end-use applications, a fast reaction time is critical – in particular where there are security, safety, and privacy concerns such as in transportation or data centers. In these situations, rapid analytics offers a compelling competitive advantage.
  • Database layer
    Applications that gather and store the large amount of data generated by the on-chip monitoring IP at different stages of the lifecycle. This inevitably involves data from multiple vendors and sources, which means that open APIs, partnerships, federation capabilities, and participation in relevant standards organizations are critical factors for success.
  • Application layer
    Applications that can be enabled or enhanced by the use of data from silicon systems, some of which are provided by Siemens, and some of which are created and owned by our customers and partners.

Fig. 2: Silicon Lifecycle Solutions platform.

The establishment of silicon lifecycle management will be a considerable advantage for SoCs in the most competitive markets, including automotive and datacenter. The benefits range from improving design and manufacturing processes to better system integration and device bring up, to continuous optimization in the field and ensuring security from cyber attacks. To learn more about the Tessent Silicon Lifecycle Solutions from Siemens, check out our whitepaper.

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