BUDAPEST, Hungary Advanced Micro Devices Inc. is anticipating system design requirements at the 45-nm node and beyond. The chip maker sees a need to work at higher levels of abstraction; creating a design file that generates both the software and the hardware.
One key to enabling such a revolution in design is the fact that much of electronics will be based on digital media and streaming content.
First enabled by computers, digital content is now starting to shape industrialized society and wash back to reshape electronic equipment and processors, according to Robert Ober, AMD fellow and executive at the company’s Office of Strategy and Technology.
"Digital content is king," said Ober in a presentation at the Future Horizons Electronics Forum here. He cited broadband and ubiquitous connectivity as supporting evidence. The next quesiton is how the semiconductor industry should react and what changes are required as it moves towards the 45-nm manufacturing node?
Software-programmable processors were previously found only in computers while industrial logic was hard-wired and consumer electronics was an exclusively analog domain. From its original home in the computer the processor marched out to become the DSP in military equipment and the embedded processor in expensive industrial equipment. That outward flow has continued until consumer electronics from television, through mobile phones, digital cameras and on to MP3 and video players has become a broadly digital domain.
Ober noted that the processors have become standardized and the consumer companies tend to differentiate their products in software. In the future, Ober noted in his speech, these companies need to work in software at yet higher levels of abstraction while at the same time increasing power efficiency, through the use of different hardware engines and processing capabilities.
“The x86 PC is everywhere. It is now the standard development platform. But, what will be the next platform? Will it remain the PC or will it be another CE product such as the TV set?” Ober asked the audience.
In this context, silicon providers have to adjust to the product manufacturers’ need for integrated circuits that, “bring more features to products for less money and enable custom derivatives to profitably address niche markets,” added Ober.
However, as the chip industry moves towards the 45-nm node and beyond, silicon providers have to cope with longer design cycles, increased tape-out costs, as well as pressures to deliver solutions on platform products and to design devices at higher abstraction levels.
For the last few years the “platform” approach has been the chip industry’s standard answer to the dilemma that its own products are taking longer and more resources to design while its customers are requiring shorter design cycles and great flexibility one superset design that embodies multiple options that can be omitted to amended to customize the design.
Ober declared that at the 45-nm node and beyond silicon providers not only have to deliver software and the host hardware, but they need to develop it at a higher level of abstraction to create stable configurable platforms in regular arrays. “In a few metal layers, at minimal expense, the solution provider can tailor the platform to different market segments,” Ober predicted.
Such environment is most likely to set the stage for significant changes in the industry, Ober concluded.