heard about the escalating costs of system-on-chip (SoC) development. But what
are the costs, and what are the potential savings? Steve Glaser, corporate vice
president of strategic development at Cadence, filled in some of those numbers
at a keynote speech March 24 at the International Symposium on Quality
Electronic Design (ISQED).
talked about both design costs and unit costs, and identified "best practices"
that can help reduce both. He also discussed the cost of delay (getting to
market late) and the cost of failure (such as respins). "We're dealing with the
exploding costs of design and trying to get to the point where we can create a
very predictable and profitable chip design industry," he said.
First, the bad news
presented some information about design and unit costs. It comes from various
sources, including customers and analysts:
- SoC development costs are
reaching $50M to $100M. Some customers say the cost is doubling with each
new process node.
- A three month delay in a
"medium moving" market can cost nearly $20M.
- Mask costs will soon be $6M. Considering
additional costs, a respin may cost $5M to $10M on top of a six month
- Increasing levels of power can
cause a 4-10X incremental cost increase in packaging. In some cases the
cost of the package exceeds the cost of the die.
- Test can take up 15 percent of
the total unit cost.
- Mixed-signal integration
problems cause 30-50 percent of respins.
- Silicon IP royalties can exceed
15 percent of the cost of the chip.
- The cost of designing silicon
IP into an SoC can be 2-3X the cost of buying the IP itself. The cost of
IP integration is rising dramatically.
The good news - best practices can
unit costs can be significantly managed by bringing "best practices" into IP
creation and SoC integration early, Steve said. Some specific suggestions are
- Start with chip planning that
includes an economic cost analysis along with a technical analysis. (Note:
Chip Estimator provides this capability).
- View design differently. Adopt
an "integration centered view" and find ways to lower risk and cost of IP
- Leverage an IP ecosystem with
multiple sources. Optimize and track cost of IP selections.
- Create IP that is "integration
ready" so it will fit into a "much more automated SoC integration
- Instrument IP so integrators
can thoroughly test it in the context of the SoC.
- Develop IP at the
transaction-level modeling (TLM) level to "lower the cost of integration
and improve the way reuse is done."
- Lower packaging cost with
Finally, some good numbers
provided a few examples of the time and cost savings that are possible through
good design techniques:
- The right mix of technologies
can lead to a 10-15 percent die size advantage or a 5-10 percent
- Techniques such as test vector compression
can reduce tester time by 2X. Failure analysis costs can be reduced by
- Integration-ready IP, in
combination with TLM, can result in a 30 percent improvement in the time
and cost of SoC integration and lower the cost of IP verification by 30-50
- A 10X time reduction in some of
the steps of SoC verification is possible.
- Low power is really an SoC
integration problem, and "best practices" can reduce low-power integration
time by 20 percent.
One of my
more popular blog postings last year suggested that SoC development costs are chronically
underestimated. If that's the case, the kind of information that Steve
presented in his keynote can only help.