SAN JOSE, Calif.In a bold attempt to provide a central on-line location for the entire IC design and manufacturing "supply chain," SiliconX Inc. is announcing its plans this week and is field-testing an early version of its web site. The startup company includes EDA and Silicon Valley veterans and is backed by private and corporate venture capital.
While various other Internet sites have emerged to tackle specific aspects of semiconductor design, SiliconX wants to be the one site that offers it all. In addition to informational resources, such as news, calendar listings and directories, the company wants to enable and profit from a variety of transactions. These include the purchase of silicon intellectual property (IP), application service provider (ASP) use of EDA tools, and engagement of services in design, manufacturing, packaging, and test.
"There are many individual sites, but they don't offer enough value to the user and there's very little focus on IC design," said Judy Owen, SiliconX chairman and chief executive. "We're trying to bring about a community that's actually focused on getting silicon done."
A former chip designer, Owen founded Wireless Access in 1991, serving as its president and chief executive until its $100 million acquisition by Glenayre Technologies in 1997. Also active in SiliconX management is board member Doug Fairbairn, founder of Redwood Design Automation and first president of the Virtual Socket Interface Alliance (VSIA).
Klaus ten Hagen, SiliconX vice-president of engineering, held senior management positions at Synopsys. Baruch Deutsch, SiliconX vice-president of marketing, held senior marketing positions at such companies as Daisy Systems, Cadence Design Systems and Tegrity. SiliconX has attracted $1 million in venture capital and has commitments for $4 million more, Owen said.
The web site that's currently up is a "beta test" version, Owen said. The company expects to launch a more full-fledged version in time for this June's Design Automation Conference, and to announce some third-party partnerships starting in April.
While there are many e-commerce sites addressing electronic design, most of themsuch as Chipcenter, Partminer, and WebPRNfocus primarily on providing components and services for board designers. Cadence Design Systems next week is expected to add to this mix with an Internet spinoff company that will expand the original OrCAD activeparts.com site.
SiliconX is different because of its focus on chip design. Thus, it's concerned not with component sales, but with EDA tools, IP, libraries, and design and manufacturing services.
Informational resources at SiliconX include news, although the company is not an editorial content creator and will look to partner in this area. A "resource locator," now under development, will use intelligent search engines to link users to tools, services, technology, and manufacturers. Also planned are a series of topical on-line forums moderated by industry leaders.
Trip to the mall
But the real mission of SiliconX, said Owen, is to build an "infrastructure" for e-commerce. The company is building a "services mall" that will link users with design services, EDA tools, IP, foundries, and packaging and test firms.
"We allow people to configure transactional exchanges more quickly," Owen said. For example, she said, SiliconX can bring together IP providers and purchasers by building the "underlying infrastructure" for an on-line exchange. It's not yet clear exactly what services SiliconX would provide, especially in comparison to the Virtual Component Exchange (VCX), which has a very similar goal.
Owen said that VCX could provide the underlying technology for the kinds of IP exchanges SiliconX will enable. Nothing specific has been announced - but Andy Travers, VCX CEO, is one of the industry figures who is publicly announcing support for SiliconX.
In the EDA realm, SiliconX will seek to enable the ASP usage of tools on a pay-per-use basis. Individual vendors are already doing this on their own web sites, as most recently seen with Monterey Design Automation's eDolphin product (see March 13, p. 1). But Owen believes that Monterey and other EDA vendors have much to gain by working with SiliconX.
"They'd have more feet on the street doing support," she said. "We can build a server farm on top of a co-location facility and support it. We could even support a company like Monterey for their own internal use." SiliconX is not yet announcing any EDA vendor partnerships, but hopes to do so in April.
Beyond IP and EDA tool usage, SiliconX will offer "request for quote" (RFQ) capabilities for a range of design and manufacturing services. While many web sites offer high-tech services, SiliconX will be much more focused on chip design than others, Owen said.
The company will derive some revenue from advertising, but will mostly seek to make money by taking a share of the transactions it enables, Owen said.
Among those announcing support for SiliconX are Jim Fiebiger, former president of VLSI Technology and a board member of the new company. "SiliconX will provide a path to silicon that will include design, manufacturing and test, helping accelerate products into the marketplace," Fiebiger said.
Others expressing support for SiliconX include Gabe Moretti, chair of VHDL International; Dennis Brophy, chair of Open Verilog International; and Mark Miller, chairman of the Rapid IP business consortium.