In an effort to lower the barriers to system-on-a-chip design, ARC Cores Ltd. is expanding the array of semiconductor technology it can offer by acquiring two small IP vendors.
ARC, known for its configurable 32-bit RISC microprocessor, said on Tuesday that it has agreed to buy VAutomation Inc., a supplier of configurable peripheral-logic cores, and Precise Software Technologies Inc., a developer of Internet protocol stacks.
The Precise Software transaction will fortify ARC's position in the networking arena, where about half of its licensees play, according to Jim Turley, vice president of marketing for London-based ARC. The privately held IP firm did not disclose financial terms.
Both acquisitions were announced at the IP2000 conference in Santa Clara, Calif., where the technical and economic challenges associated with SOC designs were being debated. According to industry executives at the show, time-to-market pressure on OEMs is rippling back through the semiconductor supply chain, sending vendors of cores, silicon, design services, and tools in search of allies to close the productivity gap.
In ARC's case, this has meant shopping for peripheral technologies its customers are already designing into their chips. By offering more of the system building blocks from a single source, ARC can save months on the design cycle, Turley said.
"We want to make it even easier to go from paper napkin to shipping product," he said. "Merely choosing the pieces is about a third of the work. The risky part is, do they all play together? Almost more than anything else, we provide a confident feeling that all these things are going to work."
VAutomation of Nashua, N.H., is a supplier of standards-based serial communications and peripheral cores, such as Ethernet, USB, IEEE-1394, and CANbus, that typically surround a microprocessor in an ASIC or SOC design.
Precise Software, based in Ottawa, Canada, will bring embedded Internet protocol stacks, a complex software component that "nobody likes to write, but nine out of 10 applications need today," according to Turley. Precise also supplies device drivers, compilers, debuggers, and real-time operating systems.
Combined with ARC's October purchase of processor development tool supplier, MetaWare, the union of IP companies will provide a "tightly integrated set of tools to develop the system-on-a-chip," and simplify the procurement process, said Bob Terwilliger, ARC's president and chief executive.
However, ARC will offer the products as a menu of options, not a complete package, he said. As with MetaWare, ARC plans to maintain VAutomation and Precise as autonomous units operating from their existing facilities and supporting current customers, which may or may not use the ARC platform, the company said.