The chiplet universe is coming: What’s in it for you?



There’s a lot of talk and excitement about chiplets these days, but there’s also a lot of confusion. What is available today? What should I expect in terms of interoperability? Is the promise of an emerging ecosystem real? More fundamentally, developers of high-end systems-on-chip (SoCs) need to consider a central question: “What’s in it for me?” The answer, unsurprisingly, varies depending on the type of application and the target market for these devices.

For the last few years, I have been closely monitoring the multi-die market, and I’ve been talking to a wide variety of players ranging from chip designers to chip manufacturers to end users of our system IP product offering. Although commentators and stakeholders accurately describe key benefits of chiplet technology, I’ve observed that these descriptions are rarely comprehensive and often lack structure.

Here is an outline of chiplet driving factors and size of opportunity per vertical Source: Arteris

As a result, I felt the need to identify common themes, reflect on their importance for future deployment and map them on the key industry verticals. This blog aims to summarize these insights in a diagram (see figure above), with the hope that it is useful to you.

  1. Scalability: The key to meeting diverse computing demands

Scalability stands at the forefront of the chiplet revolution. Traditional monolithic chip designs face physical and economic limits as they approach the boundaries of Moore’s Law. Chiplets, however, offer a modular approach. By combining smaller, discrete components or “chiplets,” manufacturers can create larger, more powerful processors.

This modular design allows for the easy scaling of performance and functionality to meet the specific needs of various applications. This is what drove the early adoption of the technology by pioneering companies in the enterprise compute vertical. Today, it also attracts players in the communications and automotive industries, which also crave higher computing power, particularly for AI applications.

  1. Cost efficiency: Lowering expenses and increasing competitiveness

Cost efficiency is another critical factor driving the adoption of chiplets. Traditional chip fabrication, especially at the cutting edge, is exceedingly expensive, with costs escalating as transistors shrink. The chiplet approach mitigates these costs in several ways.

First, it allows for the use of older, more cost-effective manufacturing processes for certain components. Second, by constructing a processor from multiple smaller chiplets, manufacturers can significantly reduce the yield loss associated with defects in large monolithic chips.

If part of a chiplet is defective, it doesn’t render the entire chip unusable, as would be the case with a traditional design. This translates directly into cost savings, making high-performance computing more accessible. This aspect is especially critical for cost-sensitive sectors such as wireless communications, consumer electronics, and industrial applications.

  1. Ecosystem development: Fostering collaboration and innovation

The shift to chiplets also encourages the development of a more collaborative and innovative ecosystem in the semiconductor industry. With chiplets, different companies can specialize in various types of computing hosts and accelerators, contributing their expertise to a larger whole.

This openness can lead to a more vibrant ecosystem, as smaller players can innovate in specific areas without the overhead of designing entire chips. Such collaboration could accelerate technological advancements, benefiting newcomers in the automotive and consumer electronics vertical, for instance, and leading to more rapid iterations and improvements in technology.

  1. Portfolio management: A strategic approach to product development

Finally, the transition to chiplets allows companies to manage their product portfolios more effectively. With the ability to mix and match different chiplets, a company can more quickly and efficiently adapt its product offerings to meet market demands. This flexibility enables faster response times to the emerging trends and customer needs, providing a competitive edge.

Additionally, the ability to reuse chiplets across multiple products can streamline research and development, reducing time-to-market and R&D expenses. The flexibility to mix and match chiplets for different configurations makes it easier to tailor chips to specific market segments and is particularly suited to the needs of the consumer and automotive markets.

Overall, the chiplet architecture is poised to revolutionize the semiconductor industry, with each sector finding unique value in its capabilities. This tailored approach ensures that chiplets will play a critical role in driving forward the technological advancements of each industry vertical.

Guillaume Boillet, senior director of product management and strategic marketing at Arteris, drives the product lifecycle of the interconnect IP and SoC integration automation portfolios.

 

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