Components | September 07, 2011

SoC silicon & software design cost analysis: changes in perspective

Today, everywhere we turn, we hear speakers give presentations at conferences and industry events despairing how the rise in silicon design costs hampers the semiconductor industry's growth path.
As part of this problem, we now recognize that software design costs have eclipsed silicon design efforts and have become the largest portion of the SoC creation effort.

The design landscape has also changed due to rising design complexity and lengthening design cycle times, especially in the System-on-a-Chip (SoC) market. These changes are having an impact on the SoC Design Start market delaying and preventing, to some degree, the architectural refreshes silicon designers undertake periodically to bring their solutions into line with changing market requirements and rising customer expectations.

Some of the findings:

• Total SoC design costs increased 39% from the 32nm node to the 28nm node and are expected to increase 29% again at the 22nm node

• Total SoC silicon design costs increased 35.7% at the 28nm node

• Total Software design costs increased 42.5% at the 28nm node and are forecast to show a CAGR of 138.9% through the 14nm node

• Advanced Performance Multicore SoCs represent the most expensive silicon designs with Value Multicore SoCs and Basic SoCs exhibiting lower design costs

• Derivative SoC silicon designs allow designers to accomplish their solutions at a fraction of the cost compared to first time efforts at the same process node when it first becomes commercially available

• Costs for an Advanced Performance Multicore SoC design, continuously done at the 45nm node, will experience a negative CAGR of 12.5% by the time the 14nm process geometry becomes commercially available, showing that subsequent designs at the same node become less expensive over time

• 28nm silicon with a USD 20.00 ASP is required to ship 6.521M units to reach the breakeven point

Source: Semico Research Corp.: SoC Silicon and Software Design Cost Analysis: Changes in Perspective, SC102-11, August 2011.
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