ASIC design starts evolve into 3 SoC types

March 21, 2012 — Application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) design starts are evolving under increasing design costs, rising design complexity, and lengthening design cycle times, especially in the system-on-a-chip (SoC) market, says Semico Research Corp. New applications are providing an element of stability in the landscape.

Total ASIC design starts increased 9.8% in 2010, 11.1% in 2011, and should see 10.2% increase in 2012. The compound annual growth rate 2012-2016 should be 6.6%, Semico estimates.

The number of ‘first time’ designs in the SoC market increased 6.9% in 2011 while derivative SoC designs increased 12.0%. Also read: AMD outlines SoC-centric strategy

Silicon designers are crafting ASIC designs in new ways to meet changing market requirements and mitigate design costs. The SoC market is evolving from two traditional types of SoCs to now three:
Performance SoCs become Advanced Performance Multicore SoCs.
Value SoCs become Value Multicore SoCs.
The Basic SoC category is emerging.

Semico notes that this redefinition reflects the trends towards using multiple CPU cores in the end silicon to increase performance and the extensive use of on-chip Interconnects to tie these CPU cores together. Basic SoCs reflect the increased use of CPU cores from 3rd Party Intellectual Property (SIP) vendors on Micro Controllers, which previously used proprietary CPUs to increase performance and reduce design cycle times. Basic SoCs are the fastest growing category of silicon solution, seeing 24.1% CAGR driven in part by new applications in smart grid and the Internet of Things implementations.

The largest end market for ASICs is communications: 40.9% of the total. The fastest growing is transportation: 9.0% CAGR. Smart grid applications also bring the industrial sector to a 9.0% CAGR.

Although Smart Grid and Internet of Things applications will drive large numbers of design starts and very high unit shipments, the low price points required for these applications will not drive industry revenues significantly. Increased design activity revolving around these two new applications, along with communications application growth, will help stabilize the design start landscape over the forecast period, Semico states.

"ASIC Design Starts: New Growth Ahead, SC102-12, February 2012" is available from Semico, a semiconductor marketing & consulting research company.

This report looks at changes and trends in 71 end applications summarized in the Computer, Consumer, Communications, Transportation and Industrial market categories. The report tracks the design starts and unit shipments of nine different types of ASIC products; Analog, Mixed Signal, Gate Array, Advanced Performance Multicore SoCs, Value Multicore SoCs, Basic SoCs, PLDs, FPGAs and Structured ASICs used in the profiled applications. Forecasts for ASIC design starts and ASIC unit shipments from 2012 through 2016, using 2011 as the base year are given. The report also looks at design complexity, gate count by product type, starts by process geometry, regional design starts with forecasts for design starts in each area.


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