San Jose, USA-based Atrenta’s SpyGlass Predictive Analyzer gives engineers a powerful guidance dashboard that enables efficient verification and optimization of SoC designs early, before expensive and time-consuming traditional EDA tools are deployed. I recently met up with Dr. Ajoy Bose, chairman, president and CEO, Atrenta, to find out more.
I started by asking how Atrenta provides early design analysis for logic designers? He said: “The key ingredient is something we call predictive analysis. That is, we need to analyze a design at a high level of abstraction and predict what will happen when it undergoes detailed implementation. We have a rich library of algorithms that provide highly accurate ‘predictions’, without the time and cost required to actually send a design through detailed implementation.”
There’s a saying: electronic system level (ESL) is where the future of EDA lies. Why? Its because the lower level of abstraction (detailed implementation) of the EDA market is undergoing commoditization and consolidation. There are fewer solutions, and less differentiation between them. At the upper levels of abstraction (ESL), this is not the case. There still exists ample opportunity to provide new and innovative solutions.
Now, how will this help EDA to move up the embedded software space? According to Dr. Bose, the ability to do true hardware/software co-design is still not a solved problem. Once viable solutions are developed, then EDA will be able to sell to the embedded software engineer. This will be a new market, and new revenue for EDA.
How are SpyGlass and GenSys platforms helping the industry? What problems are those solving? Dr. Ajoy Bose said: “SpyGlass is Atrenta’s platform for RTL signoff. It is used by virtually all SoC design teams to ensure the power, performance and cost of their SoC is as good as it can be prior to handoff to detailed implementation.SpyGlass is also used to select and qualify semiconductor IP – a major challenge for all SoC design teams.
“GenSys provides a way to easily assemble and modify designs at the RTL level of abstraction. As a lot of each SoC is re-used design data, the need to modify this data to fit the new design is very prevalent. GenSys provides an easy, correct-by-construction way to get this job done.”
How does the SpyGlass solve RTL design issues, ensuring high quality RTL with fewer design bugs? He added that it’s the predictive analysis technology. SpyGlass provides accurate and relevant information about what will happen when a design is implemented and tested. By fixing these problems early, at RTL, a much higher quality design is handed off to detailed implementation with fewer bugs and associated schedule challenges.
On another note, I asked him why Apple’s choice of chips a factor in influencing the global chip industry? The primary reason is their volume and buying power. Apple is something of a “King Maker” when it comes to who manufactures their chips. Apple is also a thought leader and trend setter, so their decisions affect the decisions of others.
Finally, the global semiconductor industry! How is the global semicon industry doing in H1-2013? As per Dr. Bose: “We see strong growth. Our customers are undertaking many new designs at advanced process technology nodes. We think that this speaks well for future growth of the industry. At a macro level, the consumer sector will drive a lot of the growth ahead. For EDA, the higher levels of abstraction is where the growth will be.”
Early this month, iSuppli had indicated that semiconductor inventory levels may have headed into oversupply territory in Q3.
It said: “Semiconductor Days Of Inventory (DOI) for chip suppliers are estimated to have climbed to 75.9 days in the third quarter of 2010, up 1.5 days from Q2. DOI in Q3 also was 4.8 percent higher than the seasonally adjusted average for the period.”
iSuppli added that the value of inventory was not been this high since the second quarter of 2008, when semiconductor suppliers’ stockpiles peaked at $35.4 billion.
Thanks to Jon Cassell and Debra Jaramilla at iSuppli, I was able to speak with Sharon Stiefel, analyst for semiconductor inventory and manufacturing for iSuppli on this situation.
Is there really an oversupply?
I asked Sharon Stiefel that given the growth that 2010 has seen so far, why are semiconductor inventory levels heading into oversupply territory in Q3?
She said that semiconductor inventories, overall, have risen both in terms of DOI and dollars for the past several quarters, and not yet achieved pre-recession levels last seen in 2008. “The overly lean conditions of 2009 and early 2010 are giving way to inventory levels, which are more appropriate for the strong growth experienced in 2010.
“Oversupply in Q3 2010 is not a foregone conclusion, but is possible that if the companies are not able to match manufacturing run rates with demand as the year winds to a close,” she added.
Which sectors have been witnessing or recording some softness in demand and why?
Stiefel said: “Companies reporting Q3 revenues over the past two weeks have reported a softening in demand, particularly in PC and consumer end markets, attributed to the continued uncertainty in the global economy, leaving consumers unwilling to spend. A company with more exposure to these sectors has more potential of excessive inventories, versus a company with a more balanced product portfolio.”
Industry needs to moderate inventories
It is also said in iSuppli’s release that: ‘The industry will need to moderate inventories at the appropriate time in its growth curve in order to capture current revenue opportunities while they still exist.’ So, when exactly is that appropriate time?
Stiefel noted: “The appropriate time is when sales opportunities exist – projected quarters of growth, rather than revenue contraction. Semiconductor revenues are projected to grow in Q3 2010, contract in Q4 2010 and Q1 2011, and then resume moderate single digit growth for the remainder of 2011.” Read more…
I recently met Sam Fuller, CTO, Analog Devices, and had an interesting conversation. First, I asked him about the state of the global semicon industry in 2013.
Industry in 2013
He said: “Due to the uncertainties in the global economy in the last couple of years, the state of the global semiconductor industry has been quite modest growth. Because of the modest growth, there has been a buildup in demand. As the global economies begin to be more robust going forward, we expect to see more growth.”
Industry in 2014?
How does Analog Devices see the industry going forward in 2014? What are the five key trends?
He added: “I would talk about the trends more from an eco-system and applications perspective. Increased capability on a single chip: Given all the advances to Moore’s law, the capability of a chip has increased considerably in all dimensions and not just performance, be it the horsepower we see in today’s smartphones or the miniaturization and power consumption of wearable gadgets that were on show this year at CES.
“In Analog Devices’ case, as we are focused on high performance signal processing, we can put more of the entire signal chain on a single die. For our customers, the challenge is to provide their customers a more capable product which means a more complex product, but with a simpler interface.
“A classic example is our AD9361 chip, which is a single chip wideband radio transceiver for Software Defined Radio (SDR). It is a very capable ASSP (Application Specific Standard Products) as well as RF front end with a wide operating frequency of 70 MHz to 6 GHz.
“This chip, coupled with an all-purpose FPGA, can build a very flexible SDR operating across different radio protocols, wide frequency range and bandwidth requirements all controlled via software configuration. It finds a number of applications in wireless communication infrastructure, small cell Base stations as well as a whole range of custom radios in the industrial and aerospace businesses.”
Now, let’s see the trends for 2014!
More collaboration with customers: There is a greater emphasis on understanding customers’ end applications to provide a complete signal chain, all in a System on a Chip (SoC) or a System in a package (SiP). The relationship with our customers is changing as we move more towards ASSPs focused with few lead customers for target markets and target applications. While this has already been ongoing in the consumer industry with PCs and laptops, customers in other vertical markets like healthcare, automotive and industrial are and will collaborate more with semiconductor companies like Analog Devices to innovate at a solutions level.
More complete products: We have evolved from delivering just the silicon at a component level to delivering more complete products with more advanced packaging for various 3D chips or multi-die within a package. Our solutions now have typically much more software that makes it easier to configure or program the chips. It is a solution that is a combination of more advanced silicon, advanced packaging and more appropriate software.
With providing the complete solution, the products are more application specific and hence, the need for more collaboration with customers. For example, there may be one focused on Software Defined Radio, one for motor control, and one for vital signs monitoring for consumer health that we have launched recently.
We need it to be generic enough that multiple customers can use it, but it needs to be as tailored as possible to the customers’ needs for specific market segments. While because of the volume and standardization, availability of complete reference designs in the consumer world has been the norm, other market segments are demanding more complete products not-withstanding the huge variation in protocols and applications.
Truly global industry: The semiconductor and electronics industry has become truly global, so multiple design sites around the globe collaborate to create products. For example for Analog Devices, one of our premier design sites is our Bangalore product design center where we quite literally developed our most complex and capable chips. At the same time our customers are also global.
We see large multinational companies like GE, Honeywell, Cisco, Juniper, ABB, Schneider and many of our top strategic customers globally doing substantial system design work in Bangalore along with a multitude of India design houses. Our fastest growing region is in Asia, but we have substantial engagement with customers in North America and Europe. And our competition is also global, which means that the industry is ever moving faster as the competition is global.
Smarter design tools: The final trend worth talking about is the need for smarter design tools. As our products and our customers’ products become more complex and capable, there have to be rapidly developing design tools, for us to design them.
This cannot be done by brute force but by designing smarter and better tools. There is a lot of innovation that goes on in developing better tool suites. There is also ever more capable software that caters to a market moving from 100s of transistors to literally billions of transistors for an application.
Following a host of forecasts for 2014, it is now the turn of Applied Materials with its forecast for the year. First, I asked Om Nalamasu, senior VP, CTO, Applied Materials regarding the outlook for the global semicon industry in 2014.
Semicon outlook 2014
He said that Gartner expects the semiconductor industry to grow in mid-single digits to over $330 billion in 2014.
“In our industry – the semiconductor wafer fab equipment sector – we are at the beginning of major technology transitions, driven by FinFET and 3D NAND, and based a wide range of analyst projections, wafer fab equipment investment is expected to be up 10-20 percent in 2014. We expect to see a year-over-year increase in foundry, NAND, and DRAM investment, with logic and other spending flat to down.”
Five trends for 2014
Next, what are the top five trends likely to rule the industry in 2014?
Nalamasu said that the key trends continuing to drive technology in 2014 and beyond include 3D transistors, 3D NAND, and 3D packaging. 3D remains a central theme. In logic, foundries will ramp to 20nm production and begin early transition stages to3D finFET transistors.
With respect to 3D NAND, some products will be commercially available, but most memory manufacturers plan to crossover from planar NAND to vertical NAND starting this year. In wafer level packaging, critical mechanical and electrical characterization work is bringing the manufacturability of 3D-integrated stacked chips closer to reality.
These device architecture inflections require significant advances in precision materials engineering. This spans such critical steps as precision film deposition, precision materials removal, materials modification and interface engineering. Smaller features and atomic-level thin films also make interface engineering and process integration more critical than ever.
Driving technology innovations are mobility applications which need high performance, low power semiconductors. Smartphones, smart watches, tablets and wearable gadgets continue to propel industry growth. Our customers are engaged in a fierce battle for mobility leadership as they race to be the first to market with new products that improve the performance, battery-life, form-factor and user experience of mobile devices.
How is the global semiconductor industry managing the move to the sub 20nm era?
He said that extensive R&D work is underway to move the industry into the sub-20nm realm. For the 1x nodes, more complex architectures and structures as well as new higher performance materials will be required.
Some specific areas where changes and technology innovations are needed include new hard mask and channel materials, selective material deposition and removal, patterning, inspection, and advanced interface engineering. For the memory space, different memory architectures like MRAM are being explored.
FinFETs in 20nm!
By the way, have FinFETs gone to 20nm? Are those looking for power reduction now benefiting?
FinFET transistors are in production in the most advanced 2x designs by a leading IDM, while the foundries are in limited R&D production. In addition to the disruptive 3D architecture, finFET transistors in corporate new materials such as high-k metal gate (HKMG) that help to drastically reduce power leakage.
Based on public statements, HKMG FinFET designs are expected to deliver more than a 20 percent improvement in speed and a 30 percent reduction in power consumption compared to28nm devices. These are significant advantages for mobile applications.
Status of 3D ICs
Finally, what’s the status with 3D ICs? How is Applied helping with true 3D stacking integration?
Nalamasu replied that vertically stacked 3D ICs are expected to enter into production first for niche applications. This is due primarily to the higher cost associated with building 3D wafer-level-packaged (WLP) devices. While such applications are limited today, Applied Materials expects greater utilization and demand to grow in the future.
Applied is an industry leader in WLP, having spear-headed the industry’s development of through silicon via (TSV) technology. Applied offers a suite of systems that enable customers to implement a variety of packaging techniques, from bumping to redistribution layer (RDL) to TSV. Because of work in this area, Applied is strongly positioned to support customers as they begin to adopt this technology.
To manufacture a robust integrated 3D stack, several fundamental innovations are needed. These include improving defect density and developing new materials such as low warpage laminates and less hygroscopic dielectrics.
Another essential requirement is supporting finer copper line/spacing. Important considerations here are maintaining good adhesion while watching out for corrosion. Finally, for creating the necessary smaller vias, the industry needs high quality laser etching to replace mechanical drilling techniques.
Early this month, I caught up with Jaswnder Ahuja, corporate VP and MD, Cadence Desiign Systems India. With the global semiconductor industry having entered the sub-20nm era, there are a lot of things happening, and Cadence is sure to be present.
Performance in sub-2onm era
First, let’s see how’s the global semiconductor industry performing after entering the sub-20nm era.
Ahuja replied: “Increased demand for faster, smaller, low-power chips continues to drive the geometry shrink as one of the ways to manage the low-power, higher performance goals in smaller form factors—in other words, PPA is driving the move to advanced node design.
“At Cadence, we are seeing a lot of interest in the wireless space, which includes smartphones, tablets, and consumer devices. In this market, you must support different standards, the device must be really fast, it must have Internet access, and all this must be done at lower power so the that it does not drain the battery. We’re also seeing interest for advanced nodes in other segments such as computing and graphics processors.”
When speaking of advanced nodes, let’s also try and find out what Cadence is doing in helping achieve 10X faster power integrity analysis and signoff.
Cadence Voltus IC power integrity Solution is a full-chip, cell-level power signoff tool that provides accurate, fast, and high-capacity analysis and optimization technologies to designers for debugging, verifying, and fixing IC chip power consumption, IR drop, and electromigration (EM) constraints and violations.
The Voltus solution includes innovative technologies such as massively parallel execution, hierarchical architecture, and physically aware power grid analysis and optimization. Beneficial as a standalone power signoff tool, Voltus IC Power Integrity Solution delivers even more significant productivity gains when used in a highly integrated flow with other key Cadence products, providing the industry’s fastest design closure technology.
Developed with advanced algorithms and a new power integrity analysis engine with massively parallel execution, Voltus IC Power Integrity solution:
* Performs 10X faster than other solutions on the market.
* Supports very large designs—up to one billion instances—with its hierarchical architecture.
* Delivers SPICE-level accuracy.
* Enhances physical implementation quality via physically aware power integrity optimization.
Supported by major foundries and intellectual property (IP) providers, Voltus IC Power Integrity Solution has been validated and certified on advanced nodes processes such as 16nm FinFET and included in reference design flows such as for 3D-IC technology. Backed by Cadence’s rigorous quality control and product release procedures, the Voltus solution delivers best-in-class signoff quality on accuracy and stability for all process nodes and design technologies.
FinFETs to 20nm – are folks benefiting?
It is common news that FinFETs have gone to 20nm and perhaps, lower. Therefore, are those folks looking for power reduction now benefiting?
Ahuja replied that FinFETs allow semiconductor and systems companies to continue to develop commercially viable chips for the mobile devices that are dominating the consumer market. FinFETs enable new generations of high-density, high-performance, and ultra-low-power systems on chip (SoCs) for future smart phones, tablets, and other advanced mobile devices. Anyone who adopts FinFET technology will reap the benefits.
Foundry support for FinFETs will begin at 16nm and 14nm. In April of this year, Cadence announced a collaboration with ARM to implement the industry’s first ARM Cortex-A57 processor on TSMC’s 16nm FinFET manufacturing process. At ARM TechCon 2012, Cadence announced a 14nm test chip tapeout using an ARM Cortex-M0 processor and IBM’s FinFET process technology.
Xilinx Inc. has announced of its 20nm All Programmable UltraScale portfolio with product documentation and Vivado Design Suite support.
Neeraj Varma, director-Sales, India, Xilinx, said: “We are enabling All Programmable and smarter systems. We are using smart IP. We are aligning to produce smarter systems. We are helping customers to differentiate their products faster.
“In future, we will go with concurrent nodes with FPGAs, SoCs and 3D ICs. As per our estimates, 28nm will have a very long life. We shipped the 20nm device in early Nov. 2013. It complements 28nm or new high-performance architectures. 16nm complements 20nm with FinFET, multiprocessing, memory.”
Strategy execution has kept Xilinx a generation ahead. As of Dec. 2013, its 20nm portfolio is available to customers. There are two major announcements from Xilinx.
* Xilinx 20nm All Programmable UltraScale portfolio now available with ASIC-class architecture and ASIC-strength design solution.
* Xiilinx doubles industry’s highest capacity device to 4.4 mn logic, delivering density adantage, a full generation ahead.
KINTEX UltraSCALE – XCKU035, 040, 060, 075, 100, 115.
VIRTEX UltraSCALE – XCVU065, 080, 095, 125, 145, 160.
There is a family migration path. There is scalability for derivative applications. You can leverage PCB investment across platforms. It is future-proof with migration path to 16nm. For making these happen, Xilinx is using the TSMC 20SoC.
Varma added, “We have increased the logic cells in Kintex and Virtex, and added 100G Ethenet blocks and 150G Interlaken blocks.”
The second announcement – highest density in FPGAs in industry. The XCVU440 is the largest in the industry by 4X, a full generation ahead, and uses 50M equivalent ASIC gates. Xilinx is delivering an ASIC-class advantage through silicon, tools and methodology.
There is UltraSCALE ASIC-class architecture, and ASIC-class capabilities. There is also the Vivado ASIC-strength design suite.
UltraFAST is the design methodology. UltraSCALE will support networking, digital video and wireless.
Interconnect bottlenecks impede next generation performance.
* Routing delay dominates overall delay.
* Clock skew consumes more timing margin.
* Sub-optimal CLB packing reduces performance and utilization.
Varma added: “We have solved these issues – as UltraSCALE re-architects the core. There is 90 percent utilization now with maximum performance. We added next-generation routing, ASIC-like clocking – have clocks by segment, and logic cell packing.
“Block-level innovations optimize critical paths for massive bandwidth and processing. We are going to support DDR4, and there will be a lot more security features.”
The Vivado design suite accelerates productivity. Analytical placer solves the interconnect issue.
UltraSCALE apps include:
VIRTEX: 400G OTN switching, 400G transponder, 400G MAC-to-Interlaken bridge, 2x100G Muxponder, ASIC prototyping.
KINTEX: 4×4 mixed mode radio, 100G traffic manager NIC, super high-vision processing, 256-channel ultrasound, 48-channel T/R radar processing.
ARM calls the spirit of innovation as collective intelligence at every level. It is within devices, between people, through tech and across the world. We are still pushing boundaries of mobile devices.
Speaking at the ARM Summit in Bangalore, Dr Mark Brass, corporate VP, Operations, ARM, said that the first challenge was the number of people on the planet. Technology development and innovation also pose challenges.
According to him, mobile phones are forecast to grow 7.3 percent in 2013 driven by 1 billion smartphones. Mobile data will ramp up 12 times between now and 2018. Mobile and connectivity are creating further innovation.
August, a compamy, has introduced an electronic lock for doors, controlled by the smartphone. Another one is Proteus, which looks at healthcare. The smartphone is becoming the center of our world. All sorts of sensors are also getting into smartphones. Next, mobile and connectivity are growing in automobiles. Companies like TomTom are competing with automobile companies. Connectivity is also transforming infrastructure and data centers. They are now building off the mobile experience.
As per ARM, an IoT survey done has revealed that 76 percent of companies are dealing with IoT. As more things own information, there will be much more data. The IoT runs on ARM.
“There’s more going on than just what you think. IoT is not just about things. Skills development should not be an afterthought. Co-operation is critical. Solutions will emerge. All sorts of things are going to happen. Three years from now, only 4 percent of companies won’t have IoT in the business at all,” Dr. Brass added.
IoT will be present in industrial, especially motors, transportation, energy, and healthcare. Smart meters are coming in to help with energy management. There is a move to Big Data from Little Data.
Challenges in 2020 would be in transportation, energy, healthcare and education. ARM and the ARM partnership is addressing those. “We are delivering an unmatched diversity of solutions. We are scaling from sensors to servers, connecting our world,” Dr. Brass concluded.
SEMICON Europa was recently held in Dresden, Germany on Oct. 8-10, 2013. I am extremely grateful to Malcolm Penn, chairman and CEO, Future Horizons for sharing this information with me.
SEMICON Europa included a supplier exhibition where quite a few 450mm wafers were on display. One highlight was a working 450mm FOUP load/unload mechanism, albeit from a Japanese manufacturer. These exhibits did illustrate though that 450mm is for real and no longer a paper exercise. There was also a day-long conference dedicated to 450mm in the largest room. This was crowded throughout the time and a large number of papers were given.
Paul Farrar of G450C began with a presentation about Supply Chain Collaboration for 450mm. His key message was there are 25 different tools delivered to G450C of which 15 are installed in the NFN cleanroom. This number will grow to 42 onsite and 19 offsite by Q1 2015.
He stated that Nikon aims to have a working 193i litho machine in 2H 2014 and install one in Albany in 1H 2015. Farrar also reported a great improvement in wafer quality which now exceed the expected M76 specification, and prime wafers to the M1 spec should be available in Q3 2014. There has also been good progress on wafer reclaim and it is hoped some wafers can be reused up to 10 times, although at least three is the target.
Metrology seems to be one of the most advanced areas with eight different machines already operational. The number of 450mm wafers in their inventory now stands at over 10,000 with these moving between the partners more rapidly. It was immediately noticeable from Farrar’s speech that G450C is now recognising the major contribution Europe is making to 450mm and is looking for more collaborations.
Facilities part of F450C
Peter Csatary of M&W then dealt with the facilities part of G450C, known as F450C. This group consists of:
• M&W (co-ordination)
• Mega Fluid Systems
• Haws Corp.
• Air Liquide
• Ceres Technlogies
• CS Clean Systems
F450C is seen as streamlining communications with the semiconductor companies and their process tool suppliers. The group will focus on four key areas, namely Environmental Footprint, Facility Interface Requirements, Cost and Duration, and Safety and Sustainability.
One interesting point raised was that 450mm equipment is inherently more massive and one suggestion has been that ceiling mounted cranes will be required to install and remove equipment. This of course means that fab roofs would need to be stronger than previously. This topic was discussed at the latest F450C meeting subsequent to this conference.
Another new concept is that of a few standardised 3D templates and adapter plates to allow fab services to be pre-installed before the equipment is placed. An interesting point made elsewhere by M&W is that the current preference is to place a fab where there are already other fabs in existence so that the infrastructure to transport products, materials and services is already in place, as are basic utilities such as power, natural gas and water supply.
However, the scale of the expected utility demand at 450 mm ups the stakes as for example a large 300 mm facility uses about 4 million gallons of water per day, whereas a 450 mm fab will use almost double that, putting immense strain on a location’s infrastructure should there be other fabs in the region. This could affect future site selections.
An outcome of this phenomenon is that the reduction, reclaim and re-use of materials will no longer be driven only by the desire to be a good corporate citizen, but will also be driven by cost control and to ensure availability of required resources such as power, water, specialty gases and chemicals.