This article originally appeared in the Synopsys Insight Newsletter
Changing Market Drivers
For many years, we have become accustomed to semiconductor innovation driving technology architecture. Indeed, Moore’s Law is the basis for this; scaling processes to smaller nodes every 18 months and making the technology available to design teams of creative innovators has resulted in thousands of successful new product launches over the years.
However, IoT is changing the design-technology industry landscape (Figure 1). Today, the needs of the applications are driving the technology. In the past, Foundries invested in research and development, and created manufacturing platforms, while Fabless Companies’ innovation was limited to those available technologies. Now, we are turning that process on its head so that we start with an understanding of our customers’ needs, use that to inform our R&D programs, and subsequently define what we need from manufacturing to enable semiconductor innovations. As an example, GLOBALFOUNDRIES is developing an innovative technology platform and ecosystem, optimized for IoT, based on customer and application needs. This unique technology associated with an open ecosystem could potentially become a critical enabler for the next wave of semiconductor growth.
That ‘about face’ requires manufacturing experts from foundries and IDMs to start looking at the needs of the applications – understanding their requirements for today and for the future. That’s a fundamental shift in the way that we define technology roadmaps. It’s also quite a challenge because the IoT market is so fragmented and diverse. Within the sub-sectors, there are multiple classes of products, many of which have their own unique needs.
Emerging applications include augmented reality, concurrent application and modem operation, gesture recognition, contextual awareness, HD video, 3D cameras, and multiple concurrent displays. The list of IoT applications is both long and growing all the time, which is not surprising given that anecdotal estimates put the number of start-up companies working within the IoT ecosystem at over 3,000.
Silicon technology is a vital part of the IoT ecosystem, and we cannot ignore technology scaling because, away from the ‘edge’ devices, we will need more compute power than ever to deal with the massive increases in data traffic that result from the proliferation of connected devices. Satisfying the needs of ‘end-to-end’ IoT is driving the requirement for leading technologies like 14-nm FinFET.
IoT is changing the design-technology landscape in other ways, not least the acceleration of time-to-market and relentless pressure on cost reduction. When product life is sometimes shorter than the process life, the time available for product development becomes unbelievably short. This need puts tremendous pressure on the technology requirement, and is amplified by the need to reduce cost.
Collaborating for Success
Within the IoT ecosystem there are many challenges to overcome – from tiny individual sensors all the way to giant server farms. Product development teams can no longer expect to design in silos and be successful. Collaboration and co-optimization are becoming much more important as a result of the changing dynamics of the design-technology landscape.
Successful collaboration requires adherence to standards to enable interoperability, otherwise, in this fragmented market, the industry won’t see the full benefit of all of the technology innovation. To succeed, we need collaboration at different levels, from R&D to ensure we have the world’s best talent trying to solve all of these problems, all the way through to business models.
Single Design – Flexible Sourcing
A strong example of collaboration is GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ newest manufacturing campus, which is called “Fab 8”. Located in the heart of New York’s “Tech Valley”, Fab 8 is being developed as the most advanced semiconductor manufacturing campus in the world. We are actively collaborating with semiconductor equipment suppliers, materials suppliers, academia and other research organizations, as well as leading end-product companies. As a result of this collaborative R&D model, we have reduced the cost of process R&D for advanced technologies.
A new strategic collaboration between GLOBALFOUNDRIES and Samsung provides unprecedented global capacity for leadership in 14-nm FinFET technology. It gives customers choice and assurance of supply that can only come from true design compatibility at multiple sources across the globe. The collaboration addresses industry needs by advancing the foundry supply chain model. It covers both 14LPE and 14LPP – the leading choices for high volume, power-efficient SoC designs.
These kinds of initiatives enable us to advance the supply chain model. We are extending it to a global footprint, toward the support of a single GDS that can go to multiple foundries. The goal is to give our customers options and flexibility so that manufacturing capacity and constraints do not stand in the way of innovation.
To create a new ‘single design, flexible sourcing’ supply chain model, we are sharing technology information to enable fabless design with a common PDK so that our customers can take a single design to multiple technology-matched foundries. The collaborative fabs must be aligned with respect to materials, process recipes, integration and tools. This approach will mitigate the risks for technology start-ups and support global diversity, capacity assurance and true multi-sourcing.