“AI chips can be designed easily and quickly at a lower cost”
ARM, facing growth limitations in the mobile market, expands IP with AI
Major fabless companies, design houses, foundries, etc. are joining in succession
Korean companies are also expected to benefit from the expansion of the ARM ecosystem

ARM’s Neoverse CSS platform

ARM, the world’s largest semiconductor design asset (IP) company, is drawing a new blueprint for the era of artificial intelligence (AI) semiconductors. ARM, which has provided the blueprint for the spread and popularization of mobile application processors (AP) over the past 20 years, has recently been building a cooperative ecosystem with fabless (semiconductor design companies), design houses, foundry (contract manufacturing) companies, and IP (design asset) companies in each country, and is focusing on spreading AI semiconductor standard designs that can be developed faster and easier.

According to the industry on the 26th, ARM has recently maintained close partnerships with various semiconductor companies at home and abroad. Among Samsung Electronics’ System LSI Division, Samsung Electronics Foundry Division, and Design House, the highest level of partnership agreements have been signed with ADTechnology, ASIC Land, and Semifive. In addition, it is known that it is providing various IPs to AI semiconductor companies such as Rebellion and DeepX.

 ARM led the mobile Warring States Era

ARM is expanding its hegemony in the mobile chip market, which controls more than 90% of the global market, to the AI ​​semiconductor market. Since the 2010s, ARM’s design assets have played a key role in the design of mobile AP, which serve as the brains of smartphones. It also became an important foundation for Apple, Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Samsung Electronics to develop mobile AP.

In particular, ARM’s standard design led to a change in industry trends that allowed non-fabless IT and home appliance companies to design and produce chips that fit their own needs. ARM usually provides two types of chip licensing services. Companies with strong design competitiveness, such as Apple or Qualcomm, use ‘Total Access’, which allows them to design chips based on their own customized core by borrowing ARM’s instruction set. For companies that lack the capability to design their own chips, they use ‘Flexible Access’, which adds or modifies some new functions based on ARM’s standard design. ARM’s IP service played an important role in the opening of the Warring States Period of mobile chips. After Apple first successfully applied ARM-based mobile AP to the iPhone series, latecomers such as Qualcomm and Samsung Electronics joined in, and later, many Chinese home appliance and IT companies began to release their own APs based on ARM’s design framework. It expanded to various mobile product groups such as home appliances and wearables in addition to smartphones, and ARM’s IP came to be regarded as a kind of public good in the semiconductor market.

Samsung Electronics Exynos 2200

In the AI ​​era, ARM expansion strategy begins in earnest… Domestic companies are also expected to benefit

ARM, which has reached the limit of growth in the mobile market, is seeking new opportunities in the AI ​​semiconductor field in the 2020s. ARM is expanding its ecosystem centered on a new AI semiconductor design platform called Neoverse CSS. While ARM’s design has previously focused on low-power, high-performance mobile chips, Neoverse uses cutting-edge process nodes specialized for AI and high-performance computing (HPC).

ARM has recently entered into a strategic collaboration with AlphaWave Semi, a high-speed connectivity and computing silicon IP company, and is accelerating the development of standard designs for multi-die integration (MDI). The key to MDI design is to support the easy and quick design of various chips such as CXL (Compute Express Link), High Bandwidth Memory (HBM), and DDR by integrating custom semiconductors that support chiplet at an affordable price.

In fact, AlphaWave Semi announced this month that it had completed the design of a chiplet targeting various industrial areas such as AI, HPC, data centers, and 5G/6G through ARM’s Neoverse CSS platform. A chiplet is a method of combining several types of semiconductors into one package. Just like putting Lego blocks into a single chip, the necessary tiles can be made through multiple foundry companies. It is evaluated as cost-effective because it can be used by appropriately mixing the front-end process and the old process.

The industry predicts that ARM’s expansion of its AI chip platform will have a positive impact on the domestic semiconductor market. In fact, since the 2010s, Samsung Electronics has launched its own mobile AP brand, the Exynos series, based on the ARM design, and through this, Samsung Electronics’ System LSI Division, which is in charge of chip design, and the Foundry Division, which is in charge of production, have benefited sequentially. I also did it. The growth of the two divisions eventually had a significant impact on the growth of the domestic semiconductor equipment, materials, and IP ecosystem.

The explanation is that it could also serve as a stepping stone for new growth in the domestic fabless, design house, and foundry sectors seeking to create new opportunities in the AI ​​semiconductor market. In fact, ARM has a ‘total design partner’ relationship, the largest partnership level, with AD Technology, the largest design house in Korea, and Semi-Five. It also has close cooperative relationships with major companies such as DeepX and Furiosa AI, emerging AI semiconductor players.

An official in the semiconductor IP industry said, “Design and development in the IP field tend to be about two years ahead of the development trends in the semiconductor market, including fabless, and ARM has already been gradually strengthening its ecosystem to popularize the AI ​​semiconductor market for several years.” “I believe this can be a very meaningful milestone in creating success stories through collaboration with Samsung Foundry and domestic fabless and design houses in new markets”.