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ARM: We are the champions of the world

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

 

You didn’t have to crank up Queen to hear the refrain in the background when ARM CEO Warren East stepped on stage in Silicon Valley this morning to deliver his keynote at the 2012 edition of ARM TechCon. No matter how you slice the pie, ARM is the champion of the world. They know it, they know that you and I know it, and we know that they know that we know it.

Yet despite all that knowing, the guys from ARM seem like a pretty likable bunch. A month ago, I heard ARM CTO Mike Muller give the keynote at the Sophia Antipolis Microelectronics Forum, where he left the same impression with his audience on the Cote d’Azure that Warren East left with his audience this morning in the heart of Silicon Valley: ARM puts cooperation above competition, partnering above posturing, and the well-being of the world above the well-being of the bottom line of ARM or the pocketbook any of its employees.

ARM may be the champion of the world, but it’s for a reason. They’re very good at what they do, they’ve had the luck and foresight to be in the right place at the right time over the last 2 decades, and they are as concerned as the rest of us about the plethora [read “billions”] of digital devices descending on the world which threaten to drive us all to the brink of destruction by way of global warming, polluted environs, or both.

Okay, that’s my qualitative take on this morning’s keynote. Following is a more quantitative version.

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MIPI Alliance: specifications for the external interface

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

 

The MIPI Alliance was founded in 2003 by STMicro, ARM, Nokia and TI. In 2004, Intel, Motorola, Samsung and Philips joined. Today, there are over 240 companies in the Alliance, 18 working groups, and over 5000 participating individuals. Following his presentation during the general session at SAME Forum in Sophia Antipolis, I had a chance to speak with STMicro’s Joel Huloux, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the MIPI Alliance.

Huloux differentiated between the work of the MIPI Alliance and OCP-IP: “OCP-IP is more related to the inside of the chip. It is very useful for interconnect when you buy IP to put in your design. If you look at MIPI Alliance, however, we do not deal with internal bus processors, or networks. We deal with the interface which is external to the chip, particularly in a mobile device, the interface between the chip and the display, camera, and so on. There is no competition at all between OCP-IP and MIPI Alliance.”

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SAME Forum: Mike Muller lights the way to 2020

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

 

ARM CTO Mike Muller came to Sophia Antipolis in the South of France on October 2nd and 3rd for three reasons: To visit the 70+ ARM developers who work in the region, to announce the winner of the annual SAME Forum outstanding Startup Award, and to deliver the conference keynote address.

Muller is an extremely affable man and seemed quite delighted to announce the winner of the Startup Panel at the October 2nd conference dinner: the French company ADACSYS. Muller also noted during the award presentation that very early startup ZettICE, a participant in the competition, showed great potential and should continue to pursue their vision.

On Wednesday, October 3rd, Muller gave his keynote address to an absolutely packed auditorium as part of the morning’s events at SAME Forum. It was a reprise of his DAC 2012 keynote address, which was also given to a packed audience back in June in Moscone Center in San Francisco.

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Elsip: Data Management Engine IP

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

 

Swedish startup Elsip launched its first product on October 2nd, the Data Management Engine [DME], which the company says “is a programmable and configurable synthesizable IP block that solves cache coherency, memory consistency, virtual address translation and dynamic memory allocation for distributed, private or shared memories in heterogeneous and homogeneous architectures.”

I spoke with Elsip CEO Adam Edstrom at the Sophia Antipolis Microelectronics Forum in France on October 3rd. He told me Elsip is based on research out of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, in particular the work of professors Axel Jantsch, Ahmed Hemani, and Zhonghai Lu. The company was incorporated last year, but the patent-pending product has been many years in the making.

Per Edstrom: “The world is going to multicore, but many areas like robotics, embedded systems, and military systems are not using multicore because the demands of shared memory cannot be met. With DME, however, we are providing a scalable solution to the problems that occur when there are lots of cores on a chip, and lots of memory. The user assigns one DME per core and because the DME is programmable with application specific micro-code, when there are multiple kernels trying to access the same memory, problems do not arise.”

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Synopsys: Writing the book on IP

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

 

Over the last several months, Synopsys has made multiple announcements aggressively proving their ongoing presence in the burgeoning IP market: Silicon IP, Verification IP, and ARM-based design. Meanwhile, through community outreach, Synopsys has also continued to enhance the most important category of intellectual property: students in local schools.

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Chris Rowen: Tensilica’s rational trajectory

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

 

Chris Rowen is Founder and CTO of Tensilica, an IP company based in Silicon Valley. We spoke last week by phone to discuss how an IP company decides what and when to introduce new products.

I first asked to Chris for a brief history of the RISC [Reduced Instruction Set Computing] architecture he is closely associated with, and how that history segued into the founding of Tensilica.

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From RISC to Tensilica …

Q: Can you give me a quick overview of the origins of RISC architecture?

Chris Rowen: RISC is a set of ideas that grew up in academia and IBM in response to increased architectures in both the mainframe and microprocessor worlds.

People saw machines with really high hardware costs being built for assembly [language applications]. However, as compiler technology got better, people said: If I want a compiler to run well, I don’t need fancy instructions. I only need a common set of instructions that run really fast. All other complex operations could be composed by the compiler out of these fast, simple operations.

RISC grew out of these compiler technology advances, and a recognition in the VLSI era that there was an opportunity to rethink the process of how the architecture could be put together. (more…)

Hal Barbour: Master of the mega-trend

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

 

Hal Barbour is President of CAST, an IP company based on the East Coast. Hal has a tremendous ability to explain the many facets of the industry, and it was a great pleasure to sit down and talk with him this week. When we spoke by phone on August 29th, he had just wrapped up an earlier call with a customer.

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Hal Barbour on All things IP …

Q: How do you make yourself known to customers?

Hal Barbour: We have always put a lot of information in the hands of our customers, but the delivery mechanism today is quite a bit different. We’ve learned to leverage most of the contemporary tools – blogs, online meetings, webinars, shows and press releases. Press releases are just as important as ever, but where we used to send them to a central distribution center and a group of editors, now there are about 15 or 20 various people and outlets who disseminate the information to a much larger population.

Q: And how do working engineers hear about the products?

Hal Barbour: That’s the really interesting thing. Engineers today can easily see press releases directly, plus they have at their disposal a powerful set of search tools to help them get the information they need, so whatever information you’re putting out there, it better be right and it better be credible. If it’s not, engineers have got plenty of other sources to turn to.

And if you’re going to be out there, you better be able to respond to inquiries quickly and rapidly. Ultimately, however, it’s your name and your reputation that sells products. I can’t tell you the number of people who contact us based on our name and reputation.

Q: Isn’t that called ‘word of mouth’?

Hal Barbour: That’s exactly what it is, only it’s even faster today. Spreading the word used to be limited by who you knew, but today with social media and blogs, word of mouth moves at lighting speed and is more important than ever. Even today, though, nothing substitutes for face-to-face contact with the customer.

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Warren Savage: the revolutionary in our midst

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

 

Behind Warren Savage’s calm and courteous demeanor beats the heart of a revolutionary: A guy who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk of growing his beloved IP industry through the most radical of ideas – cooperation.

Warren is the founder and CEO of IPextreme, a Silicon-Valley based company helping other companies commercialize their IP, small nuggets of pure gold that would otherwise enjoy only internal use. With the assist of Warren & Co, that gold is beefed up, intensely documented, and then licensed to users outside the firewall who then have access to robust 3rd-party design blocks, yielding revenue back to the IP developers they would not otherwise enjoy.

So that’s Warren’s business, but what’s really impressive about Warren is the other half of his professional involvement: working through the GSA [Global Semiconductor Alliance] to enhance the well-being of all players in the IP industry, not just his customers. Warren chairs GSA’s Working Group on IP, and leads the Leadership Group subset within that Working Group.

Warren also founded and continues to lead Constellations, a consortium-like group of IP vendors who meet regularly to discuss business issues, develop joint solutions, and host invitation-only events for their customers. The next Constellations event is coming up in early October.

Clearly, Warren Savage is a revolutionary, someone who believes a rising tide raises all boats in the IP industry and acts vigorously on that belief. Warren and I spoke by phone on August 22nd.

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Hard IP, an introduction to increasing ROI for VLSI Chip designs

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

I came across Peter Rohr’s book on Hard IP, an introduction to increasing ROI for VLSI Chip designs and thought it would be a good addition to the online books we have at EDACafe.com.   With help from Colby Zelnik, at Sagantec, I contacted Peter and he generously agreed to let the entire book be scanned and published on EDACafe.com.  Here below is a copy of the Preface to the book and introduces the material.  I hope you find it interesting and useful.

PREFACE

A clear indication of the pervasiveness of electronics in today’s world was the concern over impending worldwide disasters caused by breakdowns in interlinked electronic systems, due to a one digit change in the calendar from 1999 to 2000. Today’s complex VLSI chips are at the heart of this extreme level of dependence.

In terms of the requirements for electronic systems, whose uses range from communications to air traffic control, from security to consumer goods, there are constant demands for more speed, more functionality, more sophistication. Almost all of these demands are linked to faster, more complex VLSI chips.

Of course, this tremendous need for more complex chips can not be easily met. In fact, there is a great deal of talk about the necessity for a significant increase in productivity to design chips faster and inexpensively enough to meet the needs of hi-tech industries. Considering current consumers’ love affair with any kind of hi-tech gadgets, there is only one way for these demands to go – up! (more…)

The Fastest USB 3.0 Performance in the Universe

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Eric Huang demonstrates a Synopsys USB 3.0 Host, Device, and PHY IP running real USB 3.0 traffic at the fastest speeds ever recorded.

The demonstration runs on HAPS FPGA-Based Prototying platform (HAPS51) with a USB 3.0 xHCI Host on Windows 7 with MCCI drivers. The Device uses Linux to implement a mass storage design. It’s super fast, because we use a RAM disk (not an SSD or HDD) for storing the data so it shows the USB 3.0 Digital IP and PHYs can really move data. It’s the fastest USB IP in the universe according to Synopsys.

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