Building a better mousetrap plays a key role in achieving market success in any industry. Of course, building one requires differentiating the product from the others already in the market. A differentiated product can even lead to creating demand for new products in adjacent markets. All of this is great but how do you implement the differentiation? In the semiconductor industry, it is through a combination of custom circuits and software. While custom silicon solutions as a market segment has been around for a long time, it certainly has gone through its waxing and waning phases. The partition of customization implementation between hardware and software is an ongoing balancing act and is dictated by various driving factors.
Currently, there are a few trends that are reinvigorating the custom silicon solutions industry. The move toward domain-specific architectures, more processing at the edge and edge-AI accelerators are some of those trends. The spectrum of power, performance, area (PPA) and latency requirements demand custom silicon. These factors are driving innovations in design methodology, interfaces, and packaging to name just a few areas. Custom silicon solution companies will be playing a critical role over the coming years.
Who is OpenFive?
OpenFive is a full-service custom silicon solutions company with differentiated IP that offers a proven path from custom SoC architecture to volume silicon. More below from their website.
“OpenFive offers end-to-end expertise in Architecture, IP Integration, Design Implementation, Software, Silicon Validation, and Manufacturing to deliver high-quality silicon in advanced nodes down to 5nm.With spec-to-silicon design capabilities, customizable platforms, and differentiated IP for Artificial Intelligence, Datacenter/High Performance Computing, Networking, and Storage applications, OpenFive is uniquely positioned to deliver highly competitive domain-specific processor-agnostic SoCs customized for your application.”
You can learn more about OpenFive from an interview of their CEO that SemiWiki published..
With the above as the backdrop, let’s review how OpenFive fared in 2021.
As an overview, they completed a year filled with interesting accomplishments and are poised for continued growth in 2022. Some of their 2021 accomplishments are highlighted below.
Chiplet-optimized IP Subsystems
With unrelenting time to market pressures, the key to increased productivity is leveraging pre-verified IP subsystems. OpenFive offers many different IP subsystems addressing connectivity and memory interfaces. You can learn more at their IP portfolio page.
With chiplets-based design implementations gaining momentum, OpenFive developed a die-to-die (D2D) IP subsystem. The subsystem supports low-power, high-throughput, and low-latency links enabling quicker integration for heterogenous chipset connections in wired communications, AI and HPC applications. You can learn more from a SemiWiki post published last year.
Edge AI Vision Platform
With the market trends noted earlier, standard chips will have difficulty meeting the wide range of performance, power and latency requirements. A custom system-on-chip (SoC) tailored for a specific edge application will deliver a competitive advantage in the marketplace. The competitive differentiation is contained within a portion of a SoC with the bulk holding necessary functions but not the differentiators.
Given the above, it makes sense to start with a platform that includes preconfigured subsystems and customize with one’s key differentiators. The customization could be limited to just adding your own custom accelerators. Or it could include customizing the different subsystems and mixing and matching with different interfaces to meet an application’s unique requirements.
With a long list of edge AI applications, OpenFive launched an Edge AI Vision platform that makes it easier for building customized edge AI SoCs. You can learn more from a SemiWiki post published last year.
OpenFive offers a turnkey solution by handling the entire process from design to IP procurement to manufacturing, test, prototypes and production.
While OpenFive as a custom silicon solutions provider is processor agnostic, they do have a front-row seat when it comes to RISC-V. With a multitude of RISC-V SoC designs and tape outs, OpenFive is in a vantage position to translate the advances SiFive makes into custom silicon solutions. With the tremendous momentum behind RISC-V, this could be a major differentiator for customers. For example, SiFive has been enhancing RISC-V vector extensions to accelerate performance on ML workloads. You can learn more from a SemiWiki post published last year.
Leading-Edge Design to Production Capabilities
OpenFive offers custom silicon services on a wide range of foundries and process nodes including leading-edge process nodes. They announced a successful tape out of a high-performance SoC on TSMC’s N5 process. The SoC is targeted for HPC/AI, networking and storage solutions and includes their HBM3 IP subsystem, D2D IP subsystem as well as SiFive’s E76 32-bit CPU core. You can learn more from their press release here.
Even during the pandemic-stricken year, their consistent presence at industry and partner events is commendable.