Marvell’s 5nm ASIC business shakeup

Marvell’s 5nm ASIC business shakeup

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Marvell is looking to shake up the custom ASIC chip market with a new 5nm offering for 5G carriers, cloud data centres, enterprise and automotive applications.

Leading edge custom ASIC designs are expensive, not just from the cost of mask sets but the development of the additional IP that is needed in chips that can have billions of transistors.

Marvell has a wide range of IP blocks that are already used in its standard products. IBM‘s former ASIC division was acquired from Global Foundries last year and has access to all these blocks and experience with over 2,000 designs. These IP blocks include ARM-based processors, embedded memories, high-speed SerDes, networking, security and a wide range of storage controller and accelerators in 5nm and beyond.

The division has access to the Global Foundries but can also use other foundries. However chip designs at 5nm and beyond cost up to a third more than 7nm from the increase in mask costs: CHIP DESIGN IS ONE THIRD MORE COSTLY THAN AT 7nm

Traditionally, data infrastructure manufacturers and cloud data centre operators have had to choose between securing standard products or a full custom silicon solution designed in-house, while developing or licensing foundational IP as needed. For the first time Marvell is offering full access to its broad and growing portfolio of industry-leading data infrastructure standard product IP and technologies for integration into custom ASIC designs at 5nm and below as well as 13 other process technology nodes.

These markets are growing fast as data centres expand and 5G networks roll out.

“The future of compute requires scalable and highly optimized solutions that can power the data centre all the way to the network edge,” said Mohamed Awad, vice president of Marketing, Infrastructure Line of Business at ARM, which is currently up for sale: CADENCE COULD BE GOOD FIT AS ARM IS SHOPPED AROUND. However Marvell has an architecure license that allows it to develop and maintain its own processor cores, which is a key advantage for the ASIC business.

Next: 5nm ASIC offering

“Marvell custom ASIC has a rich history in significant customization, advanced interfaces and memory solutions. Our ability to pull optimized components, like the Arm processor subsystem, from across Marvell’s product portfolio adds a whole new dimension to what we can deliver,” said Kevin O’Buckley, general manager of the ASIC BU at Marvell. “The breadth of Marvell’s infrastructure technology portfolio is unique in the industry – and is available in one comprehensive offering. We see this as an opportunity to deliver greater value to our existing customers while opening up possibilities for custom silicon implementations that had not previously been viable.”

“Marvell’s expanded offering unleashes new opportunities in the data centre for acceleration, smartNIC, processor, security and storage offload,” said Alan Weckel, founder and technology analyst of 650 Group. “Marvell’s early push into 5nm and beyond enables them to use the most advanced technologies with cutting edge interface and processor IP to build powerful and optimized ASIC solutions for data centre and switching applications ranging from hyperscalers to service providers to enterprises.”

Marvell bought Avera Semi in May last year from Global Foundries for $650m. This brings customers with multiple generations of switches, routers and base stations that has led to designs in cloud data centres with multiple programs in development today.

“Our acquisition of Avera enables us to offer the complete spectrum of product architectures spanning standard, semi-custom to full ASIC solutions,” said Matt Murphy, president and CEO of Marvell.  “With their highly experienced design team and Marvell’s leading technology platform, we will be better positioned to capitalize on our expanding opportunity in wired and wireless infrastructure, starting immediately in the fast growing 5G base station market.  In addition, we are looking forward to furthering our successful partnership with Global Foundries in the coming years and beyond.”

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