What is a virtual IDM?

To me it is the collaboration of ARM, Chartered, IBM, Samsung and Synopsys as they announced on Monday morning how they are collaborating on vertically optimized technology for 32nm and 28nm mobile SOC designs. I think that this virtual IDM will find some competition from the likes of Intel in the mobile space as the #1 IDM also tries to grow business in the mobile SOC space.

Kevin Myer, VP of Semiconductor Alliances shared several benefits of this virtual IDM:

Lower risk to implement an SOC

Lower cost of designs

Vertically optimized designs for power and performance, even thru the SW level

Reasons cited for such a collaboration: high mask costs in the millions, high fab costs in the billions, and unit volumes in the millions to break even.

Tom Lantzsch of ARM praised the partner companies on how they’ve cooperated to create something optimal for the consumer market and that test chips shown last year prove their technical ability to succeed.
John Chilton of Synopsys talked about how their IP and tool flows managed by the L y n x software helped reduced SOC design schedules even further and produce low-power parts. All three member companies invited us to check out their common booth at DAC this week to see and learn more details.
One question from the audience was, “How can you solve the DFM issues at 28nm when their are barriers between process development and design engineers?”

A: We’ve removed the barriers and communicate like an IDM does.

Another question was, “The cost of doing a design at 32nm is quite high, so how many customers are there to serve?”

A: We see a big enough market to serve.

A third question was, “Where is your software development automation in this collaboration?”

A: We let our clients differentiate between themselves on software, so we don’t automate that for them.

The final question was, “How much TTM savings can a 28nm customer expect with this collaboration?”

A: About one year of TTM savings.