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Archive for September, 2020

Big data analytics in the spotlight at the Ansys’ IDEAS event

Monday, September 28th, 2020

Designers of some of today’s most complex chips shared their experiences in a virtual event organized by Ansys on September 23rd and 24th. Called IDEAS (Innovative Designs Enabled by Ansys Semiconductor), the web-hosted conference focused on the new multiphysics simulation challenges posed by advanced technology nodes as well as by 3D ICs and chiplet-based designs. The event was used by Ansys to reiterate its approach to simulation and to highlight some of its newest solutions, such as the ones based on the SeaScape big data analytics platform.

A host of new interdependent problems

Let’s briefly recap some of the new problems posed by advanced technology nodes, with the help of Ansys’ white papers. As geometries have shrunk, operating voltage has also scaled down, but threshold voltages of transistors have not scaled proportionately. This has led to an increased sensitivity to voltage drop (IR), and specifically to dynamic voltage drop, which can cause changes in transistor delays and clock jitter. Small geometries also boost the stress effect of high electric fields across the dielectric, resulting in worse aging behavior due to negative bias temperature instability (NBTI).

Semiconductor industry now “barely in the 18 nm generation” according to IEEE

Monday, September 21st, 2020

Using the correct definition of technology node, today’s 5-nanometer generation actually corresponds to the 18-nanometer node. This is one of the key messages conveyed by the 2020 edition of the IEEE International Roadmap for Devices and Systems (IRDS). Building on what until 2015 was called ITRS (International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors), the IRDS is an authoritative IEEE initiative with a proven track record of reliably predicting future technology challenges and solutions: for example, the transformation of the planar silicon gate CMOS to strained silicon, high-κ/metal-gate and FinFET was predicted by the ITRS as early as in 1998. In hundreds of content-packed pages, the recently released 2020 IRDS edition obviously covers many more topics, but the energy devoted by the authors to the node nomenclature issue – and the amount of exclamation points they used – deserve some extra attention.

From metal half pitch to a marketing label

Recapping the evolution of the node definitions, the IRDS authors remind readers that from 1992 to present the IC feature considered by ITRS and IRDS to name technology nodes was half pitch of the tightest metal layer, which in the past essentially coincided with the gate length. However, in the 90’s, due to the marketing pressure for a more aggressive nomenclature, the industry started using a node definition based on the average of half-pitch and gate length. Later on, some companies decided to use only the gate dimension to define the name of the technology node; and finally – according to the IRDS authors – “the technology node definition became 70% of whatever the name of the node of the previous generation was!” Therefore, the current nomenclature “has led to a complete detachment between IC features and technology nodes’ names.” As a result, the IRDS authors insist, today’s industry labeling of nodes “clearly appears completely devoted of any connection to reality.”

Nvidia to acquire Arm; photonic design; 300M gate prototyping system; 4Gbps memory interface; wire aggregation; ML on Cortex-M0

Monday, September 14th, 2020

Nvidia-Arm news are obviously taking center stage this week, but several interesting updates also deserve attention in areas such as EDA, prototyping, embedded systems, events, acquisitions and more.

Nvidia-Arm deal

Rumors have been confirmed: GPU market leader Nvidia will acquire Arm from Japanese conglomerate company SoftBank in a transaction valued at $40 billion, what is considered the largest semiconductor deal ever. The official announcement stresses the powerful pairing that brings together Nvidia’s AI computing platform with Arm’s large footprint in many diverse end products and industries, adding that Arm R&D resources in the UK will get a boost as part of the deal. In its statement, Nvidia pledges that “Arm will continue to operate its open-licensing model while maintaining the global customer neutrality that has been foundational to its success.” It remains to be seen how Arm licensees and governments’ regulating authorities will react to the news. The new situation could also potentially change the competition landscape for Risc-V open-source ISA.


SMIC news; 16Gb LPDDR5 DRAM; new approach to AI acceleration; artificial iris; VPN adoption ranking

Monday, September 7th, 2020

U.S.-China trade tensions are again making news this week, but there is no shortage of other updates. Among them, the introduction of the new Arm Cortex-R82, a 64-bit, Linux-capable processor targeted at next-generation enterprise and computational storage solutions It provides up to 2x performance uplift compared to previous Cortex-R generations, depending on the workload. Let’s now move to more weekly news updates.

U.S. Government reportedly considering whether to add SMIC to a blacklist

According to news agency Reuters, the Trump administration is considering whether to add Chinese foundry SMIC to a trade blacklist of companies, which would force U.S. suppliers of semiconductor manufacturing equipment to seek a license before shipping to the company. Reportedly, U.S. Government agencies are investigating to assess if SMIC has a relationship to the Chinese military. SMIC has responded to these media reports with a press release declaring that “the Company manufactures semiconductors and provides services solely for civilian and commercial end-users and end-uses. We have no relationship with the Chinese military. In and before 2016, SMIC had been granted Validated End-User (VEU) authorization by the BIS (Bureau of Industry and Security) and the company hosted several visits from U.S. Government officials. Any assumptions of the Company’s ties with the Chinese military are untrue statements and false accusations.” The SMIC statement concludes by declaring that “The Company is in complete shock and perplexity to the news. Nevertheless, SMIC is open to sincere and transparent communication with the U.S. Government agencies in hope of resolving potential misunderstandings.”

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