Wafer factories have been producing at full capacity, and semiconductors can be found in more products and systems to power various devices from personal devices to self-driving cars. Despite the impact of the epidemic on the global economy, International Data Corporation (IDC) said that due to the growth of cloud computing and devices supporting remote work and study, the demand for semiconductors is still strong.Its own research confirms this. According to IDC's Semiconductor Application Predictor (SAF), global semiconductor revenue will increase to USD 442 billion in 2020, an increase of 5.4% over 2019. IDC now predicts that by 2021, the semiconductor market will reach USD 476 billion, which means a year-on-year growth rate of 7.7%.There are also some obvious trends in the industry. For example, PWC predicts that by 2022, the semiconductor market related to AI will reach $30 billion, equivalent to nearly 50% of AGR. At the same time, there are still many places for the traditional system-on-chip (SoC). It is expected that by 2022, memory chips will continue to maintain the largest market share, and chips will dominate in the next few decades.
New technologies and new participants
Other factors shaping the future of semiconductors also come from the technical direction, such as the emerging concern for open source hardware. With the development of this trend, it will change the organization's view of design, and will encourage a more collaborative and partnership approach to development.The Internet of Things is driving the large-scale demand for more cost-effective semiconductors. Similarly, 5G enables bandwidth to eventually support a wide range of interconnected infrastructures, such as for transportation, and combines inputs from multiple API connection sources. In order to achieve the required scale, standard-based reusable and shareable IP will be the key to meet the design requirements, but this method must support distribution and collaboration, and at the same time meet the security and safety requirements. Open source may be the key to this scale.The nature of industry participants is also changing, such as the introduction of vertically integrated systems and non-traditional semiconductor companies. They may be more willing to create their own equipment and platforms to achieve better control. A good example is Apple's M1, a processor designed for Mac, which further promotes their commitment to build key functions internally. This adds another interesting aspect to the industry, increasing the sources of competition and innovation.
As a necessity of the trend, the semiconductor design team has to accept the unprecedented scale of remote collaboration. Of course, this has happened to some extent, but in many cases, the epidemic makes it a necessary condition for survival.In these virtual environments, with the increasing scale of IP sharing, the problems in workflow can not be ignored. Solving the problems around collaboration and security has become a top priority. Once organizations achieve this goal, they will have experience that can be used to improve processes, regardless of whether they work in the design office or remotely, regardless of their location.In any case, the ever-changing characteristics of the semiconductor market have brought some ancient challenges to designers: keeping pace with changes and complexities, controlling costs, ensuring that the project goes on schedule and meets requirements, and then delivering on time. The release of many semiconductor products does not meet the original release date. The influencing factors may include: the difficulty of collaboration between remote teams and scattered teams, the isolated island of design caused by company acquisition, the inability to solve the management problem of explosive design data size or the problem of keeping up with the increasing complex design environment.
IP reuse and over-sharing
For a long time, people have been using IP reuse as a solution to adapt to the huge development scale, avoid unnecessary reinventing the wheel, shorten the time to market of products, and greatly reduce the cost. Various assets that can be reused include source code and binary files of software, and hardware IP such as arm processor core.The theory is reasonable, but successfully managing IP reuse is another matter. Many organizations have multiple systems (including shared drives and source control) to store and track all these files, but this makes it difficult to manage (let alone reuse) these files. Fortunately, various tools and technologies can be used to help designers overcome these obstacles, but these tools and technologies must include strong structure and control of reuse. Sharing IP is a way to achieve faster development, but it may also bring risks in management and security. And the traceability of IP metadata (who has access to what, where and how to use these assets) is crucial to the success of the project.There is a balance between sharing and over-sharing, which is why the combination of traceability, visibility and access control is essential for modern semiconductor design. Of course, manual traceability has been widely adopted, but in order to handle large and complex projects, more and more organizations are using tools that can automatically perform most of the processes from requirements to design and verification. This makes it easier to track which IP is used, when, where and when IP is used, thus avoiding expensive design redesign. Changes in demand can surface earlier and more clearly and be conveyed. Traceability also enables better remote collaboration.In addition, creating a "single fact source" or data management platform can unite all software and hardware components in a project. Even small files have become easier to find and reuse. There may be millions of files in an enterprise, not just large and complex designs. Single source of facts is usually based on the use of version control system, which can provide real-time and historical visibility about all assets, while allowing users to continue to use their preferred tools and systems.
The only source of facts is also critical to determine the cross-system hardware and software configuration problems, which are masked by the complexity of the system. In turn, this makes it easier to collaborate between internal and external remote teams.
Overcoming IP leakage
With comprehensive traceability and visibility, it becomes more feasible to identify and prevent IP leakage, which is a long-standing and costly problem in the semiconductor industry. Some root causes include scattered collaborators, insufficient control over who can view and download IP, and users inadvertently exporting IP to unauthorized sources. As the semiconductor market becomes more and more global, it is very important to reduce IP leakage.Semiconductor design is undergoing unprecedented changes. However, last year's events provided us with a blueprint for how to cope with the changes required by collaboration and culture. The good news is that there are some tools that can provide the required traceability to promote large-scale IP reuse, while also providing security and communication layers for effective collaboration.
Semiconductor design will look different in the future, but the changes brought about by the global epidemic will help promote the development of major technological innovations.
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