Custom chips come in all sizes, speeds, and flavors. From Simple PALs to the most complex ASICs, they all try to implement someone's better mousetrap idea in a small, integrated way.
There are so many choices now. ASIC vendors are still hot and heavy to tout the advantages of full and semi custom solution. These can include the most economically viable solution, if the risk factor pans out.
FPGA vendors also are quick to point out the advanced capabilities, low risk, fast time to market, and interative flexibility's they offer, granted, at a higher unit price for the most part.
Designers stuck in the middle now have another choice thanks to the launching of the Highway to Silicon program from Accent. While design services are not a new concept, Accent is trying to tie all needs and desires into a one stop shop for complex custom IC's.
As an Independent Device Manufacturer (IDM), Accent is giving designers total control over the whole development cycle as well as full ownership of the development results without having to get involved in dealing with foundries, test houses or process services. This is aimed at fabless semiconductor houses, as well as sophisticated large en customers.
As a single supplier, the Highway to Silicon program provides SoC back-end design, implementation and prototypes, supply chain management, production, validation, and assembly. There is also a 'comprehensive' design architecture and SoC front-end design capability. In house expertise is available to help guide designers with Accent's silicon-aware design expertise, cost management, performance tricks, and time-to-market trade-offs and strategies. Even product specifications and documentation.
According to Accent, resources draw on the skills of over 120 electronic engineers whose specialist expertise spans multiprocessor SoC, VDSM and AMS design. There is experience and familiarity with sub-micron geometry and power challenges of today's semiconductor designs.
In addition, close relationships with the world's leading pure-play foundries like TSMC, Chartered and SMIC, (as well as the only third-party access to STMicroelectronics foundry) help assure that the process technology used is the best match for the task at hand.
Common design methodology is supported as are tools from Cadence, Synopsys, Mentor, Coware and Mathworks. There are also IP relationships for third party IP providers including invaluable access to ARM's TLA licensing model. Test and assembly partners include ASE, Nptest, and Atlantic Technology.
Expect to see more comprehensive design services emerging to fill this void. As design complexities increase, it becomes increasingly more difficult to secure in house expertise in every area. More and more, I feel companies will rely on third party services and expertise to be competitive.