Intel has announced the purchase of NetSpeed Systems, a San Jose-based company specializing in building SoCs and interconnect fabrics. NetSpeed appears to specialize in building network-on-chip (NoC) connections for handling communication between the various functional blocks on the chip.
As SoCs have become more complex and integrated additional capabilities, the power they burn in interconnect communication has become an important focus for designers looking to increase overall efficiency. Intel, meanwhile, has been making extensive investments in products outside of its core x86 business. From its efforts to build a new HPC solution as a replacement for Knights Hill to its nascent discrete GPU effort, Movidius VPU, and FPGA business, Intel has broadened its portfolio of solutions.
NetSpeed’s focus is on using automated tools for layout and design according to a recent profile of the company on SemiWiki. According to that publication:
One of SocBuilder’s [a NetSpeed product] key features is the use of reference designs and an extensive IP catalog. Information gleaned from the reference designs and protocol information from the IP catalog are used by machine learning, and advanced data analytics and visualization to assist the design process. Because much of the work during SOC design is related to protocol related issues, this is a ripe area for improved analysis and automation. SocBuilder works with IP descriptions in IPXACT and has extensions for additional metadata for IP. NetSpeed is working with a large number of partners to ensure good coverage of popular IP in their catalog.
The NetSpeed team will join Jim Keller’s Silicon Engineering Group. Intel has no shortage of need for chip designers these days given its efforts in other areas, the need to fix its 10nm ramp, and ongoing work on whatever features the next generation of Intel CPUs or a wholesale new architecture might offer. Intel has stated it will honor all of NetSpeed’s existing customer contracts, but the company will become an internal asset of the company going forward. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed; Intel’s stated justification for the deal is: “As SoCs grow more complex and as new fabrication processes explode the number of design rules, architects are increasingly utilizing front-end tools like NetSpeed’s to automate the design and validation process – saving time and money. NetSpeed’s technology helps architects estimate and optimize SoC performance in advance of manufacturing through a system-level approach, user-driven automation and state-of-the-art algorithms.”
It’s not clear when we might see NetSpeed’s work integrated into future Intel products. It typically takes 4-5 years to bring a new CPU design to market from scratch, but integrating tools like this should be possible in a much smaller period of time.
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