ASIC Design Expertise Open to All, says Wally Rhines.

A new breed of specialised ASIC companies has levelled up the design playing field, so that small companies can compete on equal terms with large companies, according to Wally Rhines, CEO of Mentor Graphics.

“The need to differentiate through layout and design is creating specialised expertise”, says Rhines, “companies like Verisilicon, eSilicon and Alchip do the layout, and do it better than you (the customer) can, and they offer attractive prices”. Rhines reckons the emergence of these kind of companies represents the evolution of a new ASIC industry model which can combine unequalled expertise with commercial clout. “ASIC companies get quantity discounts for taking a lot of designs from different companies and bundling them together”, says Rhines, “they play foundries off against eachother.” The net result of the activities of companies like Verisilicon, eSilicon and Alchip is a levelling out, across the industry, of design capability. “The IDMs today are the champions of design and manufacturing. They have a lot of expertise”, says Rhines, “the professional ASIC companies level up the playing field, and allow smaller companies to have the expertise of the large companies.” Rhines emphasises the growing power which the foundries are gaining over the industry, now that more and more companies are giving up manufacturing. “The more information the foundries give us the more accurate the simulation and the better the yields”, he says. The corollary is very clear.



  1. Thanks for the comment. I’ve been on holiday which is why I’ve taken so long to get round to replying but the new ASIC companies, like eSilicon, take all the risk and cost of getting a chip made. The customer pays nothing until 30 days after he takes delivery of finished working chips.
    This is the difference to the traditional ASIC design house business model with customers paying NREs and gambling on first-time-right silicion.

  2. I first worked as a designer for an ASIC company (Interdesign) in 1973 (before the acronym existed), and we did designs using our own expertise for all kinds of small companies. I later worked for another ASIC company (Array Technology), and we provided IC design experience for small and large companies. We even provided designs for a medium-size IC company, that was unable to produce such designs for themselves, which they then continued to buy for at least a decade, for their disk drive division.
    So I am not clear as to what is new.

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