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Software, IP solutions dominate ESC-Taiwan, EDA&T-Taiwan

Posted: 29 Aug 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ESC-Taiwan? EDA&T-Taiwan? embedded software? IP solutions?

Software and IP solutions took the centerstage at the Embedded System Conference-Taiwan (ESC-Taiwan) and EDA & Test-Taiwan (EDA&T-Taiwan) shows in Taipei last August 23-24, as a range of software and services providers stood side by side with IC vendors at the show floor to showcase their products.

From Novelics, an embedded memory IP firm showcasing its compiler choices, to Ansoft with its simulation tools, to Datalight displaying its device drivers for flash memory interfaces, software houses from all tenets of electronics design were there with a range of new solutions for Taiwan's chipmakers.

That included ARM and its nemesis MIPS Technologies, who displayed their new IP and processor core solutions. MIPS, for instance, showcased its 24KE processor cores for shorter time-to-market applications like DTV and STBs. The key message that MIPS had for visitors was that their IP cores don't consume high power, as is commonly believed in some design circles.

Then there were EDA firms like Mentor Graphics and Synopsys. Oracle was another noticeable presence with its in-memory database and real-time data management solutions. Wind River and Monta Vista carried the flag for embedded Linux platforms.

You walk by a booth and overhear the slogan from a shrill salesman: "It's our goal to sell license to you." So what owes to this software revival in Asia's electronics design scene? Is it just the evolution, as some industry observers say that Taiwan today is where Japan was about 20 years ago?

A closer look shows that it could be more than just the evolution. The changing landscape of chip design is making software, and subsequently IP blocks, an intrinsic part of the semiconductor ecosystem. And IC design engineers in Asia are increasingly recognizing this reality.

Software power
According to Robbins Yeh, country director, Synopsys Taiwan Ltd, the biggest chunk of cost in design for 90nm and smaller nodes comes from software. "The cost of software development is bigger than verification and prototype," he added.

Haruji Ishihara, chief technical officer, Renesas Technology Taiwan Co. Ltd, agrees to the increasing software clout in semiconductor business. "In SoC-based solutions, software poses a critical challenge."

Chip companies are hiring more software engineers to cater to this challenge. But Ishihara says the long-term solution is in building relationships with third-party IP suppliers.

Beyond software development challenges for SoCs and smaller nodes, IC vendors are increasingly providing engineering support to their system clients. And this support is not only about IC itself, but also the system know-how that includes a greater software support.

Taiwan's chip industry that has been striving to master major IP components for SoC design is waking up to the fact that it's just the beginning. Now they need to develop a tighter grasp of applications and services to be able serve system houses. "Taiwan IC industry's focus on services underlines the importance of software and IP development," says Gin-Kou Ma, deputy director general, SoC Technology Center at the Industrial Technology Research Institute.

Ma said that Taiwan chip design houses are now expanding their IP know-how to cross-application platforms like health care, education and transport.

Given semiconductor industry's evolution and software's increasing stakes in it, it's likely that we could see Asia's faster uptake on software and IP industries. The ESC-Taiwan and EDA&T-Taiwan shows seem a testament to this change.

- Majeed Ahmad
EE Times-Asia

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