In a move aimed at simplifying one of the more complex elements of system-on-a-chip design, Pivotal Technologies Corp. has joined UMC Group's Gold IP program as a preferred development partner for analog and mixed-signal cores.
Although the analog portion of an SOC is typically dwarfed by the surrounding digital circuitry, designers often discover too late that it's also one of the most fragile, misunderstood, and tricky blocks of the design, said K.C. Murphy, president and chief executive of Pivotal, Pasadena, Calif.
"It turns out you can be held out of the market by a very small percentage of your design," Murphy said. "UMC and Pivotal recognize that the analog/mixed-signal decision and design is a major challenge for customers, and we've tried to solve it for them."
Under the multiyear, nonexclusive arrangement, Pivotal will supply its Fulcrum intellectual-property library for UMC's 0.25-, 0.18-, and futur e 0.15-micron processes. UMC will provide Pivotal with early access to its silicon for demonstrating the cores, and make Pivotal one of its Gold IP Premier Technology Development Partners. The deal is an amplification of an agreement entered into last year, under which UMC offered Pivotal's catalog of IP to its foundry customers.
The Gold IP program is UMC's attempt to lower risk for its customers by fostering close ties with a handful of reliable IP partners.
SOC developers require access to several categories of IP: foundation libraries, embedded memories, analog and mixed-signal cores, and microprocessor components-and they all need to be interoperable, said Jim Ballingall, vice president of worldwide marketing at UMC Group, Sunnyvale, Calif.
"For the past year, the focus of our Gold IP program has been pre-proving and coding cores to their maturity in our process technologies. Now, the focus is shifting to interoperability of the cores as we move into Phase 2 of the program," Ballingall said. "Pivotal is key to this phase as they offer a complete and rich set of analog cores they developed internally."
As part of UMC's Gold IP program, the companies have been actively proving Pivotal's cores in silicon for about eight months, and are now taking steps to demonstrate working designs, Murphy said. Pivotal has been working with UMC suppliers such as ARM, MIPS, Rambus, and Sonics to assemble a basic set of cores into more complex application-specific IP cores and platforms, he said.
"As people look at the different architectures, IP suppliers, design environments, technology offerings, and fabs that are available, they are overwhelmed with the variables-and when you're overwhelmed, you tend to stop moving forward," Murphy said. "I think we'll see more of these groupings of providers that work well together to provide solutions to the marketplace."
The Pivotal-UMC joint portfolio includes analog and mixed-signal components from Pivotal's Fulcrum line of high-performance A/D and D/A convert ers and phase-locked loops, which are available now.
The components, which are designed for standard CMOS logic processes, will be fully qualified in UMC Group processes prior to delivery. Pivotal is also working directly with customers to ensure successful integration and final testing.