The changes in the worldwide electronics industry brought about by the higher cost of manufacturing and the convergence of technology has forced some to reconsider the wisdom of traditional design methodologies.
The semiconductor industry is being driven to change its business model. The advent of the 300-mm wafer fabs based on 90-nanometer processes, involving a $4 billion to $5 billion investment per fab and $1 million per mask set, means that low-run manufacturing is pricing its customers out of the market. To generate the volume necessary to absorb the high cost of manufacturing, developers need to create designs that can be customized with software and redeployed. The traditional ASIC and ASSP model differentiated by manufacturing, but the cost barriers now mandate differentiation by design, using platform-based design and merging software development with architectural development. Platform-based design is the key success factor for systems-on-chip.
The convergence of multifunction products in one package is the next significant trend forcing companies to revisit traditional design methodologies. We're seeing this convergence of functionality in media, computing, enterprise and consumer products. The pressure on design teams to integrate system-level functionality onto a single chip or chip set keeps increasing. Intel, for example, has a processor chip set that now includes wireless communications capabilities-a concept that was unheard of until recently.
Traditional design tools, methodologies and even languages do not provide sufficient support for the challenges designers face today with increased manufacturing costs and the convergence of technology. Hardware and software languages limit the designer's ability to work at a higher level of abstraction. Hardware languages are tied to physical implementation from RTL to GDSII. SystemC is a standardized system-level language supporting a design methodology for hardware, software, architecture support and support for embedded processors-a design style not available with hardware description languages.
Designers can differentiate by design through architectural exploration, verification and embedded software development all done simultaneously using platform-based design to develop systems-on-chip.
Changing market dynamics and disruptive technologies like platform-based design create the ideal environment for new companies to define and lead emerging markets. CoWare has leveraged that scenario and achieved record results in 2002, despite a poor economy and major geopolitical unrest. Innovation will continue in uncertain times and will lead the way out for companies that embrace the changes.