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Chiplet Technology Proliferates

November 19, 2019

Author: Bob Wheeler

Chiplets are getting lots of attention in IC-design circles, as real products are shipping in high volumes from leading vendors. Although some vendors claim manufacturing-cost reductions through higher yield, the draw for most newcomers is lower development costs. Even placing in one package multiple die from two vendors has proven production worthy. Small chip companies salivate at the prospect of outsourcing everything but their core intellectual property (IP).

Early adopters use only internally designed chiplets. AMD led the chiplet trend in server and PC processors. Xilinx adopted homogeneous chiplets in high-end FPGAs years ago, but Intel pioneered the use of I/O chiplets in FPGAs. Marvell employed chiplets in embedded processors but later returned to monolithic designs. Several Ethernet-switch-chip vendors, including Marvell, have adopted chiplets for high-end products targeting large data centers.

An open marketplace for third-party chiplets remains a future vision, but the industry is progressing on the technology foundation. Multiple packaging options enable designers to trade off cost versus performance and power. Intel published the first open specification for a die-to-die interface earlier this year. Facebook jumped on the chiplet bandwagon through the Open Compute Project (OCP). Still, some leading chip vendors, such as Broadcom, remain monolithic-silicon proponents, believing one big die delivers the lowest cost and power. Cost claims are difficult to validate, but we expect more vendors will adopt chiplets as the ecosystem matures and risks wane.

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