ARM DesignStart makes you feel more flexible than ever before
Published time: 2019-08-13
The open source nature of RISC-V has had a profound impact on future design, but as the processor IP leader, Arm, they need to create a more flexible and versatile model for the needs of customers. DesignStart allows users to feel the same flexibility as RISC-V, using their software and IP according to your own requirements, but this is paid.
There is no doubt that RISC-V has had a big impact, and it is believed that many new designs are frequently appearing, especially in areas where cost is competitive or the processor requires additional differentiation. I am afraid this will not have a material impact on Arm's business, but only on the media. It takes a long time to replace an ecosystem of this size and the market's confidence in Arm products. We don't know if it makes sense to replace Arm in the foreseeable future, just as Arm replaces Intel's discussion in the server space. Although there are some sub-vertical vertical markets that can get better service or better performance by choosing non-mainstream products, in my opinion, there are no obvious reasons to switch architectures in other cases.
Still, Arm is already nervous about it. They also face pressure from customers who need to respond to high liquidity needs, such as system builders entering SoC design, what IP they need and how much IP they need may not be clear until the development cycle is relatively late. . Maybe some of these design teams still want to know if life can be much simpler if they can use other platforms.
After all, the Arm business model for development is not very flexible; you have to decide and pay in advance the IPs you want to authorize. Many RISC-V implementations are open source and can be used as a starting point for free, or in more attractive terms than the Arm option. There is no doubt that even if you have to do more design work yourself, you can get the processor IP for free, no prepaid, no royalties, this idea is still attractive.
Arm now offers flexible access, one in DesignStart ($0 for Cortex-M0, M1 and M3, 90 days for software trials) and a standard licensing model (costs depending on the IP, single or multipurpose you want to use) A new contract model between access, access levels, etc.).
In flexible access, you can access a wider range of cores and supporting IP (such as system and secure IP), and you can choose one or more tapeout (based on the current website details) for $75k or $200k per year. Again, you have to pay royalties for production. Arm has several partners involved in this collaborative model, including AlphaICs, Invecas and Nordic Semi.
The planned IP includes tools and models for most Cortex-M, A and R processors, TrustZone and CryptoCell IP, Mali GPU, and system IP (such as AMBA fabric generator) for design and software development. It also includes global support and training.
It's not free, but it's more flexible. Many customers don't know which IPs they need or how many IPs they need. Large systems companies, very large computers, communications equipment, etc. don't care much about cost, but they do require more flexibility. Small-scale companies that need to respond quickly to customer-regulated regulatory requirements will like this new model. For these customers, the easier access to the range of Arm IP is a more attractive and safer option than launching a RISC-V adventure.
Everyone is willing to accept open hardware standards, or need to be different on the processor, which is an inevitable risk. WD clearly knows what they want from RISC-V, and has years of experience and large teams building similar designs around Arm core; their collaboration with RISC-V must be a relatively gradual step for them. But in my opinion, for many people, this step will be a huge unknown risk. Applying more pressure to Arm, a near-monopoly company, has never been a bad thing. They will work harder and we will benefit from it.
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