Globalization has caused a seismic shift in the electronics industry. With ready availability of the best technologies in every field, electronics makers cannot afford to have second-best components in their products. Many of the vertically integrated companies that once characterized the industry have chosen to concentrate on a few core competencies. In the process, they have spun out non-core businesses, leaving industry expertise spread among myriad players on several continents. Where processes and decisions were once typically handled under one roof, electronics makers now find themselves scouring the globe to find the design tools, silicon IP, and manufacturing alliances they need to compete effectively.
For companies designing advanced ASICs (application specific integrated circuits) and SoCs (system-on-a-chip), this fractured industry landscape presents enormous obstacles. Few companies can afford to maintain all the various tools and process expertise needed to design these massively complex chips. Fewer still can afford the multi-billion dollar capital outlays required to build new semiconductor fabrication facilities that can produce chips in nanometer scale. The majority of the industry now depends on a design chain comprising hundreds of specialized providers.
Thus far, however, the links in this design chain—the interfaces between independent companies -- have been less than optimal. Electronics manufacturers have been left with the responsibility of maintaining the complicated relationships and handoffs between independent foundries, semiconductor manufacturing equipment suppliers, silicon IP vendors, EMS (electronic manufacturing supply) companies, EDA (electronic design automation) tools providers, and others.
Seeing the need to optimize this disaggregated design community, several industry leaders are collaborating through the Silicon Design ChainTM initiative. The goal of this five-member initiative is to bring together key players in the silicon design chain to enable solutions that can help SoC and ASIC manufacturers develop nanometer products profitably.
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