I was musing the other day about the completeness of SoCs – they include a mix of embedded processors for programmable functionality, hardware engines that accelerate specific features such as graphics, and multiple interfaces for memory, buses, and peripherals. And this remarkably complete solution is delivered on a single die. We have the perfect building block for creating systems with high-value and low-cost. But, even with Moore’s law allowing us to build more complex silicon, is new feature integration a scalable future for SoCs?
My conclusion is that we are approaching a steady state. From what I see, SoC design is still a custom solution in many ways, tailored to fit a generation of parts that meet some specific requirements. While complete in itself, the features cast in silicon offer only a coarse control of functionality. This leaves the end-user having to provide additional software and hardware to fill in any feature gaps at additional cost and time spent. While the intended and configured functions of the SoC might been implemented, any feature extensions may have compromises in performance.