SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Pushing its ASIC services business to the next level, Avnet Inc. plans to roll out a new intellectual-property distribution and design group by the end of June. The group aims to distribute IP cores and design them into custom integrated parts for communications and industrial OEMs with modest volume requirements.
"This is systems-on-a-chip for the masses," said Roy A. Vallee, chairman and chief executive officer of Avnet (Phoenix). Vallee tipped details of the plan in an interview at the In-Stat Forum here.
"We are more and more being asked to provide engineering services," said Vallee. "The trend will move us from developing ASICs to being systems integrators, in effect being IP integrators. The idea of being an IP distributor is an example of the kind of non-linear evolution distributors are facing."
Avnet has hired Tom Lagatta, the former vice president of strategic marketing for LSI Logic Corp., to help ramp up its IP business, which Avnet will launch under a new brand name. To get its system-on-a-chip plan off the ground, Lagatta is expanding the core set of design tools and libraries used by the Avnet Design group in its existing business, which it works with LSI Logic as a partner. Lagatta is also striking new intellectual-property arrangements with Avnet's existing semiconductor suppliers and with new IP companies.
"We are now talking with chipless companies whom we traditionally wouldn't have had anything to do with," Vallee said. "We think there is a market emerging to put this all together."
The group expects to target communications OEMs of back-end equipment such as hubs, routers, switches and base stations. It will also work with industrial OEMs in areas such as medical instrumentation.
In each case, Avnet will focus on systems companies whose needs are not large enough to attract the attention of large semiconductor makers, with designs that typically reach about 50,000 units. "This is IT s upport focused on a sliver of silicon," Vallee said.
Avnet hopes OEMs will turn to a distributor for design services involving architectures for which they have no in-house expertise. But Vallee was quick to point out that the new direction is an experiment for the distributor and is not intended to become a business in and of itself.
"We are not looking to make a business out of engineering design, but we want to leverage our franchise chip sales," he said. "We don't know yet whether this is going to be a big deal or a little deal."